Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

Part 3 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Cornelius replied that undoubtedly his godfather could not
have thought that there was any risk for the safety of his
deposit, hidden as it was in a press which was looked upon
as sacred as the tabernacle by the whole household of Van
Baerle; and that consequently he had considered the
certificate as useless. As to a letter, he certainly had
some remembrance that some moments previous to his arrest,
whilst he was absorbed in the contemplation of one of the
rarest of his bulbs, John de Witt's servant entered his
dry-room, and handed to him a paper, but the whole was to
him only like a vague dream; the servant had disappeared,
and as to the paper, perhaps it might be found if a proper
search were made.

As far as Craeke was concerned, it was impossible to find
him, as he had left Holland.

The paper also was not very likely to be found, and no one
gave himself the trouble to look for it.

Cornelius himself did not much press this point, since, even
supposing that the paper should turn up, it could not have
any direct connection with the correspondence which
constituted the crime.

The judges wished to make it appear as though they wanted to
urge Cornelius to make a better defence; they displayed that
benevolent patience which is generally a sign of the
magistrate's being interested for the prisoner, or of a
man's having so completely got the better of his adversary
that he needs no longer any oppressive means to ruin him.

Cornelius did not accept of this hypocritical protection,
and in a last answer, which he set forth with the noble
bearing of a martyr and the calm serenity of a righteous
man, he said, --

"You ask me things, gentlemen, to which I can answer only
the exact truth. Hear it. The parcel was put into my hands
in the way I have described; I vow before God that I was,
and am still, ignorant of its contents, and that it was not
until my arrest that I learned that this deposit was the
correspondence of the Grand Pensionary with the Marquis de
Louvois. And lastly, I vow and protest that I do not
understand how any one should have known that this parcel
was in my house; and, above all, how I can be deemed
criminal for having received what my illustrious and
unfortunate godfather brought to my house."

This was Van Baerle's whole defence; after which the judges
began to deliberate on the verdict.

They considered that every offshoot of civil discord is
mischievous, because it revives the contest which it is the
interest of all to put down.

One of them, who bore the character of a profound observer,
laid down as his opinion that this young man, so phlegmatic
in appearance, must in reality be very dangerous, as under
this icy exterior he was sure to conceal an ardent desire to
avenge his friends, the De Witts.

Another observed that the love of tulips agreed perfectly
well with that of politics, and that it was proved in
history that many very dangerous men were engaged in
gardening, just as if it had been their profession, whilst
really they occupied themselves with perfectly different
concerns; witness Tarquin the Elder, who grew poppies at
Gabii, and the Great Conde, who watered his carnations at
the dungeon of Vincennes at the very moment when the former
meditated his return to Rome, and the latter his escape from

The judge summed up with the following dilemma: --

"Either Cornelius van Baerle is a great lover of tulips, or
a great lover of politics; in either case, he has told us a
falsehood; first, because his having occupied himself with
politics is proved by the letters which were found at his
house; and secondly, because his having occupied himself
with tulips is proved by the bulbs which leave no doubt of
the fact. And herein lies the enormity of the case. As
Cornelius van Baerle was concerned in the growing of tulips
and in the pursuit of politics at one and the same time, the
prisoner is of hybrid character, of an amphibious
organisation, working with equal ardour at politics and at
tulips, which proves him to belong to the class of men most
dangerous to public tranquillity, and shows a certain, or
rather a complete, analogy between his character and that of
those master minds of which Tarquin the Elder and the Great
Conde have been felicitously quoted as examples."

The upshot of all these reasonings was, that his Highness
the Prince Stadtholder of Holland would feel infinitely
obliged to the magistracy of the Hague if they simplified
for him the government of the Seven Provinces by destroying
even the least germ of conspiracy against his authority.

This argument capped all the others, and, in order so much
the more effectually to destroy the germ of conspiracy,
sentence of death was unanimously pronounced against
Cornelius van Baerle, as being arraigned, and convicted, for
having, under the innocent appearance of a tulip-fancier,
participated in the detestable intrigues and abominable
plots of the brothers De Witt against Dutch nationality and
in their secret relations with their French enemy.

A supplementary clause was tacked to the sentence, to the
effect that "the aforesaid Cornelius van Baerle should be
led from the prison of the Buytenhof to the scaffold in the
yard of the same name, where the public executioner would
cut off his head."

As this deliberation was a most serious affair, it lasted a
full half-hour, during which the prisoner was remanded to
his cell.

There the Recorder of the States came to read the sentence
to him.

Master Gryphus was detained in bed by the fever caused by
the fracture of his arm. His keys passed into the hands of
one of his assistants. Behind this turnkey, who introduced
the Recorder, Rosa, the fair Frisian maid, had slipped into
the recess of the door, with a handkerchief to her mouth to
stifle her sobs.

Cornelius listened to the sentence with an expression rather
of surprise than sadness.

After the sentence was read, the Recorder asked him whether
he had anything to answer.

"Indeed, I have not," he replied. "Only I confess that,
among all the causes of death against which a cautious man
may guard, I should never have supposed this to be

On this answer, the Recorder saluted Van Baerle with all
that consideration which such functionaries generally bestow
upon great criminals of every sort.

But whilst he was about to withdraw, Cornelius asked, "By
the bye, Mr. Recorder, what day is the thing -- you know
what I mean -- to take place?"

"Why, to-day," answered the Recorder, a little surprised by
the self-possession of the condemned man.

A sob was heard behind the door, and Cornelius turned round
to look from whom it came; but Rosa, who had foreseen this
movement, had fallen back.

"And," continued Cornelius, "what hour is appointed?"

"Twelve o'clock, sir."

"Indeed," said Cornelius, "I think I heard the clock strike
ten about twenty minutes ago; I have not much time to

"Indeed you have not, if you wish to make your peace with
God," said the Recorder, bowing to the ground. "You may ask
for any clergyman you please."

Saying these words he went out backwards, and the assistant
turnkey was going to follow him, and to lock the door of
Cornelius's cell, when a white and trembling arm interposed
between him and the heavy door.

Cornelius saw nothing but the golden brocade cap, tipped
with lace, such as the Frisian girls wore; he heard nothing
but some one whispering into the ear of the turnkey. But the
latter put his heavy keys into the white hand which was
stretched out to receive them, and, descending some steps,
sat down on the staircase which was thus guarded above by
himself, and below by the dog. The head-dress turned round,
and Cornelius beheld the face of Rosa, blanched with grief,
and her beautiful eyes streaming with tears.

She went up to Cornelius, crossing her arms on her heaving

"Oh, sir, sir!" she said, but sobs choked her utterance.

"My good girl," Cornelius replied with emotion, "what do you
wish? I may tell you that my time on earth is short."

"I come to ask a favour of you," said Rosa, extending her
arms partly towards him and partly towards heaven.

"Don't weep so, Rosa," said the prisoner, "for your tears go
much more to my heart than my approaching fate, and you
know, the less guilty a prisoner is, the more it is his duty
to die calmly, and even joyfully, as he dies a martyr. Come,
there's a dear, don't cry any more, and tell me what you
want, my pretty Rosa."

She fell on her knees. "Forgive my father," she said.

"Your father, your father!" said Cornelius, astonished.

"Yes, he has been so harsh to you; but it is his nature, he
is so to every one, and you are not the only one whom he has

"He is punished, my dear Rosa, more than punished, by the
accident that has befallen him, and I forgive him."

"I thank you, sir," said Rosa. "And now tell me -- oh, tell
me -- can I do anything for you?"

"You can dry your beautiful eyes, my dear child," answered
Cornelius, with a good-tempered smile.

"But what can I do for you, -- for you I mean?"

"A man who has only one hour longer to live must be a great
Sybarite still to want anything, my dear Rosa."

"The clergyman whom they have proposed to you?"

"I have worshipped God all my life, I have worshipped Him in
His works, and praised Him in His decrees. I am at peace
with Him and do not wish for a clergyman. The last thought
which occupies my mind, however has reference to the glory
of the Almighty, and, indeed, my dear, I should ask you to
help me in carrying out this last thought."

"Oh, Mynheer Cornelius, speak, speak!" exclaimed Rosa, still
bathed in tears.

"Give me your hand, and promise me not to laugh, my dear

"Laugh," exclaimed Rosa, frantic with grief, "laugh at this
moment! do you not see my tears?"

"Rosa, you are no stranger to me. I have not seen much of
you, but that little is enough to make me appreciate your
character. I have never seen a woman more fair or more pure
than you are, and if from this moment I take no more notice
of you, forgive me; it is only because, on leaving this
world, I do not wish to have any further regret."

Rosa felt a shudder creeping over her frame, for, whilst the
prisoner pronounced these words, the belfry clock of the
Buytenhof struck eleven.

Cornelius understood her. "Yes, yes, let us make haste," he
said, "you are right, Rosa."

Then, taking the paper with the three suckers from his
breast, where he had again put it, since he had no longer
any fear of being searched, he said: "My dear girl, I have
been very fond of flowers. That was at a time when I did not
know that there was anything else to be loved. Don't blush,
Rosa, nor turn away; and even if I were making you a
declaration of love, alas! poor dear, it would be of no more
consequence. Down there in the yard, there is an instrument
of steel, which in sixty minutes will put an end to my
boldness. Well, Rosa, I loved flowers dearly, and I have
found, or at least I believe so, the secret of the great
black tulip, which it has been considered impossible to
grow, and for which, as you know, or may not know, a prize
of a hundred thousand guilders has been offered by the
Horticultural Society of Haarlem. These hundred thousand
guilders -- and Heaven knows I do not regret them -- these
hundred thousand guilders I have here in this paper, for
they are won by the three bulbs wrapped up in it, which you
may take, Rosa, as I make you a present of them."

"Mynheer Cornelius!"

"Yes, yes, Rosa, you may take them; you are not wronging any
one, my child. I am alone in this world; my parents are
dead; I never had a sister or a brother. I have never had a
thought of loving any one with what is called love, and if
any one has loved me, I have not known it. However, you see
well, Rosa, that I am abandoned by everybody, as in this sad
hour you alone are with me in my prison, consoling and
assisting me."

"But, sir, a hundred thousand guilders!"

"Well, let us talk seriously, my dear child: those hundred
thousand guilders will be a nice marriage portion, with your
pretty face; you shall have them, Rosa, dear Rosa, and I ask
nothing in return but your promise that you will marry a
fine young man, whom you love, and who will love you, as
dearly as I loved my flowers. Don't interrupt me, Rosa dear,
I have only a few minutes more."

The poor girl was nearly choking with her sobs.

Cornelius took her by the hand.

"Listen to me," he continued: "I'll tell you how to manage
it. Go to Dort and ask Butruysheim, my gardener, for soil
from my border number six, fill a deep box with it, and
plant in it these three bulbs. They will flower next May,
that is to say, in seven months; and, when you see the
flower forming on the stem, be careful at night to protect
them from the wind, and by day to screen them from the sun.
They will flower black, I am quite sure of it. You are then
to apprise the President of the Haarlem Society. He will
cause the color of the flower to be proved before a
committee and these hundred thousand guilders will be paid
to you."

Rosa heaved a deep sigh.

"And now," continued Cornelius, -- wiping away a tear which
was glistening in his eye, and which was shed much more for
that marvellous black tulip which he was not to see than for
the life which he was about to lose, -- "I have no wish
left, except that the tulip should be called Rosa
Barlaensis, that is to say, that its name should combine
yours and mine; and as, of course, you do not understand
Latin, and might therefore forget this name, try to get for
me pencil and paper, that I may write it down for you."

Rosa sobbed afresh, and handed to him a book, bound in
shagreen, which bore the initials C. W.

"What is this?" asked the prisoner.

"Alas!" replied Rosa, "it is the Bible of your poor
godfather, Cornelius de Witt. From it he derived strength to
endure the torture, and to bear his sentence without
flinching. I found it in this cell, after the death of the
martyr, and have preserved it as a relic. To-day I brought
it to you, for it seemed to me that this book must possess
in itself a divine power. Write in it what you have to
write, Mynheer Cornelius; and though, unfortunately, I am
not able to read, I will take care that what you write shall
be accomplished."

Cornelius took the Bible, and kissed it reverently.

"With what shall I write?" asked Cornelius.

"There is a pencil in the Bible," said Rosa.

This was the pencil which John de Witt had lent to his
brother, and which he had forgotten to take away with him.

Cornelius took it, and on the second fly leaf (for it will
be remembered that the first was torn out), drawing near his
end like his godfather, he wrote with a no less firm hand:

"On this day, the 23d of August, 1672, being on the point of
rendering, although innocent, my soul to God on the
scaffold, I bequeath to Rosa Gryphus the only worldly goods
which remain to me of all that I have possessed in this
world, the rest having been confiscated; I bequeath, I say,
to Rosa Gryphus three bulbs, which I am convinced must
produce, in the next May, the Grand Black Tulip for which a
prize of a hundred thousand guilders has been offered by the
Haarlem Society, requesting that she may be paid the same
sum in my stead, as my sole heiress, under the only
condition of her marrying a respectable young man of about
my age, who loves her, and whom she loves, and of her giving
the black tulip, which will constitute a new species, the
name of Rosa Barlaensis, that is to say, hers and mine

"So may God grant me mercy, and to her health and long life!

"Cornelius van Baerle."

The prisoner then, giving the Bible to Rosa, said, --


"Alas!" she answered, "I have already told you I cannot

Cornelius then read to Rosa the testament that he had just

The agony of the poor girl almost overpowered her.

"Do you accept my conditions?" asked the prisoner, with a
melancholy smile, kissing the trembling hands of the
afflicted girl.

"Oh, I don't know, sir," she stammered.

"You don't know, child, and why not?"

"Because there is one condition which I am afraid I cannot

"Which? I should have thought that all was settled between

"You give me the hundred thousand guilders as a marriage
portion, don't you?

"And under the condition of my marrying a man whom I love?"


"Well, then, sir, this money cannot belong to me. I shall
never love any one; neither shall I marry."

And, after having with difficulty uttered these words, Rosa
almost swooned away in the violence of her grief.

Cornelius, frightened at seeing her so pale and sinking, was
going to take her in his arms, when a heavy step, followed
by other dismal sounds, was heard on the staircase, amidst
the continued barking of the dog.

"They are coming to fetch you. Oh God! Oh God!" cried Rosa,
wringing her hands. "And have you nothing more to tell me?"

She fell on her knees with her face buried in her hands and
became almost senseless.

"I have only to say, that I wish you to preserve these bulbs
as a most precious treasure, and carefully to treat them
according to the directions I have given you. Do it for my
sake, and now farewell, Rosa."

"Yes, yes," she said, without raising her head, "I will do
anything you bid me, except marrying," she added, in a low
voice, "for that, oh! that is impossible for me."

She then put the cherished treasure next her beating heart.

The noise on the staircase which Cornelius and Rosa had
heard was caused by the Recorder, who was coming for the
prisoner. He was followed by the executioner, by the
soldiers who were to form the guard round the scaffold, and
by some curious hangers-on of the prison.

Cornelius, without showing any weakness, but likewise
without any bravado, received them rather as friends than as
persecutors, and quietly submitted to all those preparations
which these men were obliged to make in performance of their

Then, casting a glance into the yard through the narrow
iron-barred window of his cell, he perceived the scaffold,
and, at twenty paces distant from it, the gibbet, from
which, by order of the Stadtholder, the outraged remains of
the two brothers De Witt had been taken down.

When the moment came to descend in order to follow the
guards, Cornelius sought with his eyes the angelic look of
Rosa, but he saw, behind the swords and halberds, only a
form lying outstretched near a wooden bench, and a deathlike
face half covered with long golden locks.

But Rosa, whilst falling down senseless, still obeying her
friend, had pressed her hand on her velvet bodice and,
forgetting everything in the world besides, instinctively
grasped the precious deposit which Cornelius had intrusted
to her care.

Leaving the cell, the young man could still see in the
convulsively clinched fingers of Rosa the yellowish leaf
from that Bible on which Cornelius de Witt had with such
difficulty and pain written these few lines, which, if Van
Baerle had read them, would undoubtedly have been the saving
of a man and a tulip.

Chapter 12

The Execution

Cornelius had not three hundred paces to walk outside the
prison to reach the foot of the scaffold. At the bottom of
the staircase, the dog quietly looked at him whilst he was
passing; Cornelius even fancied he saw in the eyes of the
monster a certain expression as it were of compassion.

The dog perhaps knew the condemned prisoners, and only bit
those who left as free men.

The shorter the way from the door of the prison to the foot
of the scaffold, the more fully, of course, it was crowded
with curious people.

These were the same who, not satisfied with the blood which
they had shed three days before, were now craving for a new

And scarcely had Cornelius made his appearance than a fierce
groan ran through the whole street, spreading all over the
yard, and re-echoing from the streets which led to the
scaffold, and which were likewise crowded with spectators.

The scaffold indeed looked like an islet at the confluence
of several rivers.

In the midst of these threats, groans, and yells, Cornelius,
very likely in order not to hear them, had buried himself in
his own thoughts.

And what did he think of in his last melancholy journey?

Neither of his enemies, nor of his judges, nor of his

He thought of the beautiful tulips which he would see from
heaven above, at Ceylon, or Bengal, or elsewhere, when he
would be able to look with pity on this earth, where John
and Cornelius de Witt had been murdered for having thought
too much of politics, and where Cornelius van Baerle was
about to be murdered for having thought too much of tulips.

"It is only one stroke of the axe," said the philosopher to
himself, "and my beautiful dream will begin to be realised."

Only there was still a chance, just as it had happened
before to M. de Chalais, to M. de Thou, and other slovenly
executed people, that the headsman might inflict more than
one stroke, that is to say, more than one martyrdom, on the
poor tulip-fancier.

Yet, notwithstanding all this, Van Baerle mounted the
scaffold not the less resolutely, proud of having been the
friend of that illustrious John, and godson of that noble
Cornelius de Witt, whom the ruffians, who were now crowding
to witness his own doom, had torn to pieces and burnt three
days before.

He knelt down, said his prayers, and observed, not without a
feeling of sincere joy, that, laying his head on the block,
and keeping his eyes open, he would be able to his last
moment to see the grated window of the Buytenhof.

At length the fatal moment arrived, and Cornelius placed his
chin on the cold damp block. But at this moment his eyes
closed involuntarily, to receive more resolutely the
terrible avalanche which was about to fall on his head, and
to engulf his life.

A gleam like that of lightning passed across the scaffold:
it was the executioner raising his sword.

Van Baerle bade farewell to the great black tulip, certain
of awaking in another world full of light and glorious

Three times he felt, with a shudder, the cold current of air
from the knife near his neck, but what a surprise! he felt
neither pain nor shock.

He saw no change in the colour of the sky, or of the world
around him.

Then suddenly Van Baerle felt gentle hands raising him, and
soon stood on his feet again, although trembling a little.

He looked around him. There was some one by his side,
reading a large parchment, sealed with a huge seal of red

And the same sun, yellow and pale, as it behooves a Dutch
sun to be, was shining in the skies; and the same grated
window looked down upon him from the Buytenhof; and the same
rabble, no longer yelling, but completely thunderstruck,
were staring at him from the streets below.

Van Baerle began to be sensible to what was going on around

His Highness, William, Prince of Orange, very likely afraid
that Van Baerle's blood would turn the scale of judgment
against him, had compassionately taken into consideration
his good character, and the apparent proofs of his

His Highness, accordingly, had granted him his life.

Cornelius at first hoped that the pardon would be complete,
and that he would be restored to his full liberty and to his
flower borders at Dort.

But Cornelius was mistaken. To use an expression of Madame
de Sevigne, who wrote about the same time, "there was a
postscript to the letter;" and the most important part of
the letter was contained in the postscript.

In this postscript, William of Orange, Stadtholder of
Holland, condemned Cornelius van Baerle to imprisonment for
life. He was not sufficiently guilty to suffer death, but he
was too much so to be set at liberty.

Cornelius heard this clause, but, the first feeling of
vexation and disappointment over, he said to himself, --

"Never mind, all this is not lost yet; there is some good in
this perpetual imprisonment; Rosa will be there, and also my
three bulbs of the black tulip are there."

But Cornelius forgot that the Seven Provinces had seven
prisons, one for each, and that the board of the prisoner is
anywhere else less expensive than at the Hague, which is a

His Highness, who, as it seems, did not possess the means to
feed Van Baerle at the Hague, sent him to undergo his
perpetual imprisonment at the fortress of Loewestein, very
near Dort, but, alas! also very far from it; for Loewestein,
as the geographers tell us, is situated at the point of the
islet which is formed by the confluence of the Waal and the
Meuse, opposite Gorcum.

Van Baerle was sufficiently versed in the history of his
country to know that the celebrated Grotius was confined in
that castle after the death of Barneveldt; and that the
States, in their generosity to the illustrious publicist,
jurist, historian, poet, and divine, had granted to him for
his daily maintenance the sum of twenty-four stivers.

"I," said Van Baerle to himself, "I am worth much less than
Grotius. They will hardly give me twelve stivers, and I
shall live miserably; but never mind, at all events I shall

Then suddenly a terrible thought struck him.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "how damp and misty that part of the
country is, and the soil so bad for the tulips! And then
Rosa will not be at Loewestein!"

Chapter 13

What was going on all this Time in the Mind of one of the Spectators

Whilst Cornelius was engaged with his own thoughts, a coach
had driven up to the scaffold. This vehicle was for the
prisoner. He was invited to enter it, and he obeyed.

His last look was towards the Buytenhof. He hoped to see at
the window the face of Rosa, brightening up again.

But the coach was drawn by good horses, who soon carried Van
Baerle away from among the shouts which the rabble roared in
honour of the most magnanimous Stadtholder, mixing with it a
spice of abuse against the brothers De Witt and the godson
of Cornelius, who had just now been saved from death.

This reprieve suggested to the worthy spectators remarks
such as the following: --

"It's very fortunate that we used such speed in having
justice done to that great villain John, and to that little
rogue Cornelius, otherwise his Highness might have snatched
them from us, just as he has done this fellow."

Among all the spectators whom Van Baerle's execution had
attracted to the Buytenhof, and whom the sudden turn of
affairs had disagreeably surprised, undoubtedly the one most
disappointed was a certain respectably dressed burgher, who
from early morning had made such a good use of his feet and
elbows that he at last was separated from the scaffold only
by the file of soldiers which surrounded it.

Many had shown themselves eager to see the perfidious blood
of the guilty Cornelius flow, but not one had shown such a
keen anxiety as the individual just alluded to.

The most furious had come to the Buytenhof at daybreak, to
secure a better place; but he, outdoing even them, had
passed the night at the threshold of the prison, from
whence, as we have already said, he had advanced to the very
foremost rank, unguibus et rostro, -- that is to say,
coaxing some, and kicking the others.

And when the executioner had conducted the prisoner to the
scaffold, the burgher, who had mounted on the stone of the
pump the better to see and be seen, made to the executioner
a sign which meant, --

"It's a bargain, isn't it?"

The executioner answered by another sign, which was meant to
say, --

"Be quiet, it's all right."

This burgher was no other than Mynheer Isaac Boxtel, who
since the arrest of Cornelius had come to the Hague to try
if he could not get hold of the three bulbs of the black

Boxtel had at first tried to gain over Gryphus to his
interest, but the jailer had not only the snarling
fierceness, but likewise the fidelity, of a dog. He had
therefore bristled up at Boxtel's hatred, whom he had
suspected to be a warm friend of the prisoner, making
trifling inquiries to contrive with the more certainty some
means of escape for him.

Thus to the very first proposals which Boxtel made to
Gryphus to filch the bulbs which Cornelius van Baerle must
be supposed to conceal, if not in his breast, at least in
some corner of his cell, the surly jailer had only answered
by kicking Mynheer Isaac out, and setting the dog at him.

The piece which the mastiff had torn from his hose did not
discourage Boxtel. He came back to the charge, but this time
Gryphus was in bed, feverish, and with a broken arm. He
therefore was not able to admit the petitioner, who then
addressed himself to Rosa, offering to buy her a head-dress
of pure gold if she would get the bulbs for him. On this,
the generous girl, although not yet knowing the value of the
object of the robbery, which was to be so well remunerated,
had directed the tempter to the executioner, as the heir of
the prisoner.

In the meanwhile the sentence had been pronounced. Thus
Isaac had no more time to bribe any one. He therefore clung
to the idea which Rosa had suggested: he went to the

Isaac had not the least doubt that Cornelius would die with
the bulbs on his heart.

But there were two things which Boxtel did not calculate
upon: --

Rosa, that is to say, love;

William of Orange, that is to say, clemency.

But for Rosa and William, the calculations of the envious
neighbour would have been correct.

But for William, Cornelius would have died.

But for Rosa, Cornelius would have died with his bulbs on
his heart.

Mynheer Boxtel went to the headsman, to whom he gave himself
out as a great friend of the condemned man; and from whom he
bought all the clothes of the dead man that was to be, for
one hundred guilders; rather an exorbitant sum, as he
engaged to leave all the trinkets of gold and silver to the

But what was the sum of a hundred guilders to a man who was
all but sure to buy with it the prize of the Haarlem

It was money lent at a thousand per cent., which, as nobody
will deny, was a very handsome investment.

The headsman, on the other hand, had scarcely anything to do
to earn his hundred guilders. He needed only, as soon as the
execution was over, to allow Mynheer Boxtel to ascend the
scaffold with his servants, to remove the inanimate remains
of his friend.

The thing was, moreover, quite customary among the "faithful
brethren," when one of their masters died a public death in
the yard of the Buytenhof.

A fanatic like Cornelius might very easily have found
another fanatic who would give a hundred guilders for his

The executioner also readily acquiesced in the proposal,
making only one condition, -- that of being paid in advance.

Boxtel, like the people who enter a show at a fair, might be
disappointed, and refuse to pay on going out.

Boxtel paid in advance, and waited.

After this, the reader may imagine how excited Boxtel was;
with what anxiety he watched the guards, the Recorder, and
the executioner; and with what intense interest he surveyed
the movements of Van Baerle. How would he place himself on
the block? how would he fall? and would he not, in falling,
crush those inestimable bulbs? had not he at least taken
care to enclose them in a golden box, -- as gold is the
hardest of all metals?

Every trifling delay irritated him. Why did that stupid
executioner thus lose time in brandishing his sword over the
head of Cornelius, instead of cutting that head off?

But when he saw the Recorder take the hand of the condemned,
and raise him, whilst drawing forth the parchment from his
pocket, -- when he heard the pardon of the Stadtholder
publicly read out, -- then Boxtel was no more like a human
being; the rage and malice of the tiger, of the hyena, and
of the serpent glistened in his eyes, and vented itself in
his yell and his movements. Had he been able to get at Van
Baerle, he would have pounced upon him and strangled him.

And so, then, Cornelius was to live, and was to go with him
to Loewestein, and thither to his prison he would take with
him his bulbs; and perhaps he would even find a garden where
the black tulip would flower for him.

Boxtel, quite overcome by his frenzy, fell from the stone
upon some Orangemen, who, like him, were sorely vexed at the
turn which affairs had taken. They, mistaking the frantic
cries of Mynheer Isaac for demonstrations of joy, began to
belabour him with kicks and cuffs, such as could not have
been administered in better style by any prize-fighter on
the other side of the Channel.

Blows were, however, nothing to him. He wanted to run after
the coach which was carrying away Cornelius with his bulbs.
But in his hurry he overlooked a paving-stone in his way,
stumbled, lost his centre of gravity, rolled over to a
distance of some yards, and only rose again, bruised and
begrimed, after the whole rabble of the Hague, with their
muddy feet, had passed over him.

One would think that this was enough for one day, but
Mynheer Boxtel did not seem to think so, as, in addition to
having his clothes torn, his back bruised, and his hands
scratched, he inflicted upon himself the further punishment
of tearing out his hair by handfuls, as an offering to that
goddess of envy who, as mythology teaches us, wears a
head-dress of serpents.

Chapter 14

The Pigeons of Dort

It was indeed in itself a great honour for Cornelius van
Baerle to be confined in the same prison which had once
received the learned master Grotius.

But on arriving at the prison he met with an honour even
greater. As chance would have it, the cell formerly
inhabited by the illustrious Barneveldt happened to be
vacant, when the clemency of the Prince of Orange sent the
tulip-fancier Van Baerle there.

The cell had a very bad character at the castle since the
time when Grotius, by means of the device of his wife, made
escape from it in that famous book-chest which the jailers
forgot to examine.

On the other hand, it seemed to Van Baerle an auspicious
omen that this very cell was assigned to him, for according
to his ideas, a jailer ought never to have given to a second
pigeon the cage from which the first had so easily flown.

The cell had an historical character. We will only state
here that, with the exception of an alcove which was
contrived there for the use of Madame Grotius, it differed
in no respect from the other cells of the prison; only,
perhaps, it was a little higher, and had a splendid view
from the grated window.

Cornelius felt himself perfectly indifferent as to the place
where he had to lead an existence which was little more than
vegetation. There were only two things now for which he
cared, and the possession of which was a happiness enjoyed
only in imagination.

A flower, and a woman; both of them, as he conceived, lost
to him for ever.

Fortunately the good doctor was mistaken. In his prison cell
the most adventurous life which ever fell to the lot of any
tulip-fancier was reserved for him.

One morning, whilst at his window inhaling the fresh air
which came from the river, and casting a longing look to the
windmills of his dear old city Dort, which were looming in
the distance behind a forest of chimneys, he saw flocks of
pigeons coming from that quarter to perch fluttering on the
pointed gables of Loewestein.

These pigeons, Van Baerle said to himself, are coming from
Dort, and consequently may return there. By fastening a
little note to the wing of one of these pigeons, one might
have a chance to send a message there. Then, after a few
moments' consideration, he exclaimed, --

"I will do it."

A man grows very patient who is twenty-eight years of age,
and condemned to a prison for life, -- that is to say, to
something like twenty-two or twenty-three thousand days of

Van Baerle, from whose thoughts the three bulbs were never
absent, made a snare for catching the pigeons, baiting the
birds with all the resources of his kitchen, such as it was
for eight slivers (sixpence English) a day; and, after a
month of unsuccessful attempts, he at last caught a female

It cost him two more months to catch a male bird; he then
shut them up together, and having about the beginning of the
year 1673 obtained some eggs from them, he released the
female, which, leaving the male behind to hatch the eggs in
her stead, flew joyously to Dort, with the note under her

She returned in the evening. She had preserved the note.

Thus it went on for fifteen days, at first to the
disappointment, and then to the great grief, of Van Baerle.

On the sixteenth day, at last, she came back without it.

Van Baerle had addressed it to his nurse, the old Frisian
woman; and implored any charitable soul who might find it to
convey it to her as safely and as speedily as possible.

In this letter there was a little note enclosed for Rosa.

Van Baerle's nurse had received the letter in the following

Leaving Dort, Mynheer Isaac Boxtel had abandoned, not only
his house, his servants, his observatory, and his telescope,
but also his pigeons.

The servant, having been left without wages, first lived on
his little savings, and then on his master's pigeons.

Seeing this, the pigeons emigrated from the roof of Isaac
Boxtel to that of Cornelius van Baerle.

The nurse was a kind-hearted woman, who could not live
without something to love. She conceived an affection for
the pigeons which had thrown themselves on her hospitality;
and when Boxtel's servant reclaimed them with culinary
intentions, having eaten the first fifteen already, and now
wishing to eat the other fifteen, she offered to buy them
from him for a consideration of six stivers per head.

This being just double their value, the man was very glad to
close the bargain, and the nurse found herself in undisputed
possession of the pigeons of her master's envious neighbour.

In the course of their wanderings, these pigeons with others
visited the Hague, Loewestein, and Rotterdam, seeking
variety, doubtless, in the flavour of their wheat or

Chance, or rather God, for we can see the hand of God in
everything, had willed that Cornelius van Baerle should
happen to hit upon one of these very pigeons.

Therefore, if the envious wretch had not left Dort to follow
his rival to the Hague in the first place, and then to
Gorcum or to Loewestein, -- for the two places are separated
only by the confluence of the Waal and the Meuse, -- Van
Baerle's letter would have fallen into his hands and not the
nurse's: in which event the poor prisoner, like the raven of
the Roman cobbler, would have thrown away his time, his
trouble, and, instead of having to relate the series of
exciting events which are about to flow from beneath our pen
like the varied hues of a many coloured tapestry, we should
have naught to describe but a weary waste of days, dull and
melancholy and gloomy as night's dark mantle.

The note, as we have said, had reached Van Baerle's nurse.

And also it came to pass, that one evening in the beginning
of February, just when the stars were beginning to twinkle,
Cornelius heard on the staircase of the little turret a
voice which thrilled through him.

He put his hand on his heart, and listened.

It was the sweet harmonious voice of Rosa.

Let us confess it, Cornelius was not so stupefied with
surprise, or so beyond himself with joy, as he would have
been but for the pigeon, which, in answer to his letter, had
brought back hope to him under her empty wing; and, knowing
Rosa, he expected, if the note had ever reached her, to hear
of her whom he loved, and also of his three darling bulbs.

He rose, listened once more, and bent forward towards the

Yes, they were indeed the accents which had fallen so
sweetly on his heart at the Hague.

The question now was, whether Rosa, who had made the journey
from the Hague to Loewestein, and who -- Cornelius did not
understand how -- had succeeded even in penetrating into the
prison, would also be fortunate enough in penetrating to the
prisoner himself.

Whilst Cornelius, debating this point within himself, was
building all sorts of castles in the air, and was struggling
between hope and fear, the shutter of the grating in the
door opened, and Rosa, beaming with joy, and beautiful in
her pretty national costume -- but still more beautiful from
the grief which for the last five months had blanched her
cheeks -- pressed her little face against the wire grating
of the window, saying to him, --

"Oh, sir, sir! here I am!"

Cornelius stretched out his arms, and, looking to heaven,
uttered a cry of joy, --

"Oh, Rosa, Rosa!"

"Hush! let us speak low: my father follows on my heels,"
said the girl.

"Your father?"

"Yes, he is in the courtyard at the bottom of the staircase,
receiving the instructions of the Governor; he will
presently come up."

"The instructions of the Governor?"

"Listen to me, I'll try to tell you all in a few words. The
Stadtholder has a country-house, one league distant from
Leyden, properly speaking a kind of large dairy, and my
aunt, who was his nurse, has the management of it. As soon
as I received your letter, which, alas! I could not read
myself, but which your housekeeper read to me, I hastened to
my aunt; there I remained until the Prince should come to
the dairy; and when he came, I asked him as a favour to
allow my father to exchange his post at the prison of the
Hague with the jailer of the fortress of Loewestein. The
Prince could not have suspected my object; had he known it,
he would have refused my request, but as it is he granted

"And so you are here?"

"As you see."

"And thus I shall see you every day?"

"As often as I can manage it."

"Oh, Rosa, my beautiful Rosa, do you love me a little?"

"A little?" she said, "you make no great pretensions,
Mynheer Cornelius."

Cornelius tenderly stretched out his hands towards her, but
they were only able to touch each other with the tips of
their fingers through the wire grating.

"Here is my father," said she.

Rosa then abruptly drew back from the door, and ran to meet
old Gryphus, who made his appearance at the top of the

Chapter 15

The Little Grated Window

Gryphus was followed by the mastiff.

The turnkey took the animal round the jail, so that, if
needs be, he might recognize the prisoners.

"Father," said Rosa, "here is the famous prison from which
Mynheer Grotius escaped. You know Mynheer Grotius?"

"Oh, yes, that rogue Grotius, a friend of that villain
Barneveldt, whom I saw executed when I was a child. Ah! so
Grotius; and that's the chamber from which he escaped. Well,
I'll answer for it that no one shall escape after him in my

And thus opening the door, he began in the dark to talk to
the prisoner.

The dog, on his part, went up to the prisoner, and,
growling, smelled about his legs just as though to ask him
what right he had still to be alive, after having left the
prison in the company of the Recorder and the executioner.

But the fair Rosa called him to her side.

"Well, my master," said Gryphus, holding up his lantern to
throw a little light around, "you see in me your new jailer.
I am head turnkey, and have all the cells under my care. I
am not vicious, but I'm not to be trifled with, as far as
discipline goes."

"My good Master Gryphus, I know you perfectly well," said
the prisoner, approaching within the circle of light cast
around by the lantern.

"Halloa! that's you, Mynheer van Baerle," said Gryphus.
"That's you; well, I declare, it's astonishing how people do

"Oh, yes; and it's really a great pleasure to me, good
Master Gryphus, to see that your arm is doing well, as you
are able to hold your lantern with it."

Gryphus knitted his brow. "Now, that's just it," he said,
"people always make blunders in politics. His Highness has
granted you your life; I'm sure I should never have done

"Don't say so," replied Cornelius; "why not?"

"Because you are the very man to conspire again. You learned
people have dealings with the devil."

"Nonsense, Master Gryphus. Are you dissatisfied with the
manner in which I have set your arm, or with the price that
I asked you?" said Cornelius, laughing.

"On the contrary," growled the jailer, "you have set it only
too well. There is some witchcraft in this. After six weeks,
I was able to use it as if nothing had happened, so much so,
that the doctor of the Buytenhof, who knows his trade well,
wanted to break it again, to set it in the regular way, and
promised me that I should have my blessed three months for
my money before I should be able to move it."

"And you did not want that?"

"I said, 'Nay, as long as I can make the sign of the cross
with that arm' (Gryphus was a Roman Catholic), 'I laugh at
the devil.'"

"But if you laugh at the devil, Master Gryphus, you ought
with so much more reason to laugh at learned people."

"Ah, learned people, learned people! Why, I would rather
have to guard ten soldiers than one scholar. The soldiers
smoke, guzzle, and get drunk; they are gentle as lambs if
you only give them brandy or Moselle, but scholars, and
drink, smoke, and fuddle -- ah, yes, that's altogether
different. They keep sober, spend nothing, and have their
heads always clear to make conspiracies. But I tell you, at
the very outset, it won't be such an easy matter for you to
conspire. First of all, you will have no books, no paper,
and no conjuring book. It's books that helped Mynheer
Grotius to get off."

"I assure you, Master Gryphus," replied Van Baerle, "that if
I have entertained the idea of escaping, I most decidedly
have it no longer."

"Well, well," said Gryphus, "just look sharp: that's what I
shall do also. But, for all that, I say his Highness has
made a great mistake."

"Not to have cut off my head? thank you, Master Gryphus."

"Just so, look whether the Mynheer de Witt don't keep very
quiet now."

"That's very shocking what you say now, Master Gryphus,"
cried Van Baerle, turning away his head to conceal his
disgust. "You forget that one of those unfortunate gentlemen
was my friend, and the other my second father."

"Yes, but I also remember that the one, as well as the
other, was a conspirator. And, moreover, I am speaking from
Christian charity."

"Oh, indeed! explain that a little to me, my good Master
Gryphus. I do not quite understand it."

"Well, then, if you had remained on the block of Master
Harbruck ---- "


"You would not suffer any longer; whereas, I will not
disguise it from you, I shall lead you a sad life of it."

"Thank you for the promise, Master Gryphus."

And whilst the prisoner smiled ironically at the old jailer,
Rosa, from the outside, answered by a bright smile, which
carried sweet consolation to the heart of Van Baerle.

Gryphus stepped towards the window.

It was still light enough to see, although indistinctly,
through the gray haze of the evening, the vast expanse of
the horizon.

"What view has one from here?" asked Gryphus.

"Why, a very fine and pleasant one," said Cornelius, looking
at Rosa.

"Yes, yes, too much of a view, too much."

And at this moment the two pigeons, scared by the sight and
especially by the voice of the stranger, left their nest,
and disappeared, quite frightened in the evening mist.

"Halloa! what's this?" cried Gryphus.

"My pigeons," answered Cornelius.

"Your pigeons," cried the jailer, "your pigeons! has a
prisoner anything of his own?"

"Why, then," said Cornelius, "the pigeons which a merciful
Father in Heaven has lent to me."

"So, here we have a breach of the rules already," replied
Gryphus. "Pigeons! ah, young man, young man! I'll tell you
one thing, that before to-morrow is over, your pigeons will
boil in my pot."

"First of all you should catch them, Master Gryphus. You
won't allow these pigeons to be mine! Well, I vow they are
even less yours than mine."

"Omittance is no acquittance," growled the jailer, "and I
shall certainly wring their necks before twenty-four hours
are over: you may be sure of that."

Whilst giving utterance to this ill-natured promise, Gryphus
put his head out of the window to examine the nest. This
gave Van Baerle time to run to the door, and squeeze the
hand of Rosa, who whispered to him, --

"At nine o'clock this evening."

Gryphus, quite taken up with the desire of catching the
pigeons next day, as he had promised he would do, saw and
heard nothing of this short interlude; and, after having
closed the window, he took the arm of his daughter, left the
cell, turned the key twice, drew the bolts, and went off to
make the same kind promise to the other prisoners.

He had scarcely withdrawn, when Cornelius went to the door
to listen to the sound of his footsteps, and, as soon as
they had died away, he ran to the window, and completely
demolished the nest of the pigeons.

Rather than expose them to the tender mercies of his
bullying jailer, he drove away for ever those gentle
messengers to whom he owed the happiness of having seen Rosa

This visit of the jailer, his brutal threats, and the gloomy
prospect of the harshness with which, as he had before
experienced, Gryphus watched his prisoners, -- all this was
unable to extinguish in Cornelius the sweet thoughts, and
especially the sweet hope, which the presence of Rosa had
reawakened in his heart.

He waited eagerly to hear the clock of the tower of
Loewestein strike nine.

The last chime was still vibrating through the air, when
Cornelius heard on the staircase the light step and the
rustle of the flowing dress of the fair Frisian maid, and
soon after a light appeared at the little grated window in
the door, on which the prisoner fixed his earnest gaze.

The shutter opened on the outside.

"Here I am," said Rosa, out of breath from running up the
stairs, "here I am."

"Oh, my good Rosa."

"You are then glad to see me?"

"Can you ask? But how did you contrive to get here? tell

"Now listen to me. My father falls asleep every evening
almost immediately after his supper; I then make him lie
down, a little stupefied with his gin. Don't say anything
about it, because, thanks to this nap, I shall be able to
come every evening and chat for an hour with you."

"Oh, I thank you, Rosa, dear Rosa."

Saying these words, Cornelius put his face so near the
little window that Rosa withdrew hers.

"I have brought back to you your bulbs."

Cornelius's heart leaped with joy. He had not yet dared to
ask Rosa what she had done with the precious treasure which
he had intrusted to her.

"Oh, you have preserved them, then?"

"Did you not give them to me as a thing which was dear to

"Yes, but as I have given them to you, it seems to me that
they belong to you."

"They would have belonged to me after your death, but,
fortunately, you are alive now. Oh how I blessed his
Highness in my heart! If God grants to him all the happiness
that I have wished him, certainly Prince William will be the
happiest man on earth. When I looked at the Bible of your
godfather Cornelius, I was resolved to bring back to you
your bulbs, only I did not know how to accomplish it. I had,
however, already formed the plan of going to the
Stadtholder, to ask from him for my father the appointment
of jailer of Loewestein, when your housekeeper brought me
your letter. Oh, how we wept together! But your letter only
confirmed me the more in my resolution. I then left for
Leyden, and the rest you know."

"What, my dear Rosa, you thought, even before receiving my
letter, of coming to meet me again?"

"If I thought of it," said Rosa, allowing her love to get
the better of her bashfulness, "I thought of nothing else."

And, saying these words, Rosa looked so exceedingly pretty,
that for the second time Cornelius placed his forehead and
lips against the wire grating; of course, we must presume
with the laudable desire to thank the young lady.

Rosa, however, drew back as before.

"In truth," she said, with that coquetry which somehow or
other is in the heart of every young girl, "I have often
been sorry that I am not able to read, but never so much so
as when your housekeeper brought me your letter. I kept the
paper in my hands, which spoke to other people, and which
was dumb to poor stupid me."

"So you have often regretted not being able to read," said
Cornelius. "I should just like to know on what occasions."

"Troth," she said, laughing, "to read all the letters which
were written to me."

"Oh, you received letters, Rosa?"

"By hundreds."

"But who wrote to you?"

"Who! why, in the first place, all the students who passed
over the Buytenhof, all the officers who went to parade, all
the clerks, and even the merchants who saw me at my little

"And what did you do with all these notes, my dear Rosa?"

"Formerly," she answered, "I got some friend to read them to
me, which was capital fun, but since a certain time -- well,
what use is it to attend to all this nonsense? -- since a
certain time I have burnt them."

"Since a certain time!" exclaimed Cornelius, with a look
beaming with love and joy.

Rosa cast down her eyes, blushing. In her sweet confusion,
she did not observe the lips of Cornelius, which, alas! only
met the cold wire-grating. Yet, in spite of this obstacle,
they communicated to the lips of the young girl the glowing
breath of the most tender kiss.

At this sudden outburst of tenderness, Rosa grew very pale,
-- perhaps paler than she had been on the day of the
execution. She uttered a plaintive sob, closed her fine
eyes, and fled, trying in vain to still the beating of her

And thus Cornelius was again alone.

Rosa had fled so precipitately, that she completely forgot
to return to Cornelius the three bulbs of the Black Tulip.

Chapter 16

Master and Pupil

The worthy Master Gryphus, as the reader may have seen, was
far from sharing the kindly feeling of his daughter for the
godson of Cornelius de Witt.

There being only five prisoners at Loewestein, the post of
turnkey was not a very onerous one, but rather a sort of
sinecure, given after a long period of service.

But the worthy jailer, in his zeal, had magnified with all
the power of his imagination the importance of his office.
To him Cornelius had swelled to the gigantic proportions of
a criminal of the first order. He looked upon him,
therefore, as the most dangerous of all his prisoners. He
watched all his steps, and always spoke to him with an angry
countenance; punishing him for what he called his dreadful
rebellion against such a clement prince as the Stadtholder.

Three times a day he entered Van Baerle's cell, expecting to
find him trespassing; but Cornelius had ceased to
correspond, since his correspondent was at hand. It is even
probable that, if Cornelius had obtained his full liberty,
with permission to go wherever he liked, the prison, with
Rosa and his bulbs, would have appeared to him preferable to
any other habitation in the world without Rosa and his

Rosa, in fact, had promised to come and see him every
evening, and from the first evening she had kept her word.

On the following evening she went up as before, with the
same mysteriousness and the same precaution. Only she had
this time resolved within herself not to approach too near
the grating. In order, however, to engage Van Baerle in a
conversation from the very first which would seriously
occupy his attention, she tendered to him through the
grating the three bulbs, which were still wrapped up in the
same paper.

But to the great astonishment of Rosa, Van Baerle pushed
back her white hand with the tips of his fingers.

The young man had been considering about the matter.

"Listen to me," he said. "I think we should risk too much by
embarking our whole fortune in one ship. Only think, my dear
Rosa, that the question is to carry out an enterprise which
until now has been considered impossible, namely, that of
making the great black tulip flower. Let us, therefore, take
every possible precaution, so that in case of a failure we
may not have anything to reproach ourselves with. I will now
tell you the way I have traced out for us."

Rosa was all attention to what he would say, much more on
account of the importance which the unfortunate
tulip-fancier attached to it, than that she felt interested
in the matter herself.

"I will explain to you, Rosa," he said. "I dare say you have
in this fortress a small garden, or some courtyard, or, if
not that, at least some terrace."

"We have a very fine garden," said Rosa, "it runs along the
edge of the Waal, and is full of fine old trees."

"Could you bring me some soil from the garden, that I may

"I will do so to-morrow."

"Take some from a sunny spot, and some from a shady, so that
I may judge of its properties in a dry and in a moist

"Be assured I shall."

"After having chosen the soil, and, if it be necessary,
modified it, we will divide our three bulbs; you will take
one and plant it, on the day that I will tell you, in the
soil chosen by me. It is sure to flower, if you tend it
according to my directions."

"I will not lose sight of it for a minute."

"You will give me another, which I will try to grow here in
my cell, and which will help me to beguile those long weary
hours when I cannot see you. I confess to you I have very
little hope for the latter one, and I look beforehand on
this unfortunate bulb as sacrificed to my selfishness.
However, the sun sometimes visits me. I will, besides, try
to convert everything into an artificial help, even the heat
and the ashes of my pipe, and lastly, we, or rather you,
will keep in reserve the third sucker as our last resource,
in case our first two experiments should prove a failure. In
this manner, my dear Rosa, it is impossible that we should
not succeed in gaining the hundred thousand guilders for
your marriage portion; and how dearly shall we enjoy that
supreme happiness of seeing our work brought to a successful

"I know it all now," said Rosa. "I will bring you the soil
to-morrow, and you will choose it for your bulb and for
mine. As to that in which yours is to grow, I shall have
several journeys to convey it to you, as I cannot bring much
at a time."

"There is no hurry for it, dear Rosa; our tulips need not be
put into the ground for a month at least. So you see we have
plenty of time before us. Only I hope that, in planting your
bulb, you will strictly follow all my instructions."

"I promise you I will."

"And when you have once planted it, you will communicate to
me all the circumstances which may interest our nursling;
such as change of weather, footprints on the walks, or
footprints in the borders. You will listen at night whether
our garden is not resorted to by cats. A couple of those
untoward animals laid waste two of my borders at Dort."

"I will listen."

"On moonlight nights have you ever looked at your garden, my
dear child?"

"The window of my sleeping-room overlooks it."

"Well, on moonlight nights you will observe whether any rats
come out from the holes in the wall. The rats are most
mischievous by their gnawing everything; and I have heard
unfortunate tulip-growers complain most bitterly of Noah for
having put a couple of rats in the ark."

"I will observe, and if there are cats or rats ---- "

"You will apprise me of it, -- that's right. And, moreover,"
Van Baerle, having become mistrustful in his captivity,
continued, "there is an animal much more to be feared than
even the cat or the rat."

"What animal?"

"Man. You comprehend, my dear Rosa, a man may steal a
guilder, and risk the prison for such a trifle, and,
consequently, it is much more likely that some one might
steal a hundred thousand guilders."

"No one ever enters the garden but myself."

"Thank you, thank you, my dear Rosa. All the joy of my life
has still to come from you."

And as the lips of Van Baerle approached the grating with
the same ardor as the day before, and as, moreover, the hour
for retiring had struck, Rosa drew back her head, and
stretched out her hand.

In this pretty little hand, of which the coquettish damsel
was particularly proud, was the bulb.

Cornelius kissed most tenderly the tips of her fingers. Did
he do so because the hand kept one of the bulbs of the great
black tulip, or because this hand was Rosa's? We shall leave
this point to the decision of wiser heads than ours.

Rosa withdrew with the other two suckers, pressing them to
her heart.

Did she press them to her heart because they were the bulbs
of the great black tulip, or because she had them from

This point, we believe, might be more readily decided than
the other.

However that may have been, from that moment life became
sweet, and again full of interest to the prisoner.

Rosa, as we have seen, had returned to him one of the

Every evening she brought to him, handful by handful, a
quantity of soil from that part of the garden which he had
found to be the best, and which, indeed, was excellent.

A large jug, which Cornelius had skilfully broken, did
service as a flower-pot. He half filled it, and mixed the
earth of the garden with a small portion of dried river mud,
a mixture which formed an excellent soil.

Then, at the beginning of April, he planted his first sucker
in that jug.

Not a day passed on which Rosa did not come to have her chat
with Cornelius.

The tulips, concerning whose cultivation Rosa was taught all
the mysteries of the art, formed the principal topic of the
conversation; but, interesting as the subject was, people
cannot always talk about tulips.

They therefore began to chat also about other things, and
the tulip-fancier found out to his great astonishment what a
vast range of subjects a conversation may comprise.

Only Rosa had made it a habit to keep her pretty face
invariably six inches distant from the grating, having
perhaps become distrustful of herself.

There was one thing especially which gave Cornelius almost
as much anxiety as his bulbs -- a subject to which he always
returned -- the dependence of Rosa on her father.

Indeed, Van Baerle's happiness depended on the whim of this
man. He might one day find Loewestein dull, or the air of
the place unhealthy, or the gin bad, and leave the fortress,
and take his daughter with him, when Cornelius and Rosa
would again be separated.

"Of what use would the carrier pigeons then be?" said
Cornelius to Rosa, "as you, my dear girl, would not be able
to read what I should write to you, nor to write to me your
thoughts in return."

"Well," answered Rosa, who in her heart was as much afraid
of a separation as Cornelius himself, "we have one hour
every evening, let us make good use of it."

"I don't think we make such a bad use of it as it is."

"Let us employ it even better," said Rosa, smiling. "Teach
me to read and write. I shall make the best of your lessons,
believe me; and, in this way, we shall never be separated
any more, except by our own will."

"Oh, then, we have an eternity before us," said Cornelius.

Rosa smiled, and quietly shrugged her shoulders.

"Will you remain for ever in prison?" she said, "and after
having granted you your life, will not his Highness also
grant you your liberty? And will you not then recover your
fortune, and be a rich man, and then, when you are driving
in your own coach, riding your own horse, will you still
look at poor Rosa, the daughter of a jailer, scarcely better
than a hangman?"

Cornelius tried to contradict her, and certainly he would
have done so with all his heart, and with all the sincerity
of a soul full of love.

She, however, smilingly interrupted him, saying, "How is
your tulip going on?"

To speak to Cornelius of his tulip was an expedient resorted
to by her to make him forget everything, even Rosa herself.

"Very well, indeed," he said, "the coat is growing black,
the sprouting has commenced, the veins of the bulb are
swelling, in eight days hence, and perhaps sooner, we may
distinguish the first buds of the leaves protruding. And
yours Rosa?"

"Oh, I have done things on a large scale, and according to
your directions."

"Now, let me hear, Rosa, what you have done," said
Cornelius, with as tender an anxiety as he had lately shown
to herself.

"Well," she said, smiling, for in her own heart she could
not help studying this double love of the prisoner for
herself and for the black tulip, "I have done things on a
large scale; I have prepared a bed as you described it to
me, on a clear spot, far from trees and walls, in a soil
slightly mixed with sand, rather moist than dry without a
fragment of stone or pebble."

"Well done, Rosa, well done."

"I am now only waiting for your further orders to put in the
bulb, you know that I must be behindhand with you, as I have
in my favour all the chances of good air, of the sun, and
abundance of moisture."

"All true, all true," exclaimed Cornelius, clapping his
hands with joy, "you are a good pupil, Rosa, and you are
sure to gain your hundred thousand guilders."

"Don't forget," said Rosa, smiling, "that your pupil, as you
call me, has still other things to learn besides the
cultivation of tulips."

"Yes, yes, and I am as anxious as you are, Rosa, that you
should learn to read."

"When shall we begin?"

"At once."

"No, to-morrow."

"Why to-morrow?"

"Because to-day our hour is expired, and I must leave you."

"Already? But what shall we read?"

"Oh," said Rosa, "I have a book, -- a book which I hope will
bring us luck."

"To-morrow, then."

"Yes, to-morrow."

On the following evening Rosa returned with the Bible of
Cornelius de Witt.

Chapter 17

The First Bulb

On the following evening, as we have said, Rosa returned
with the Bible of Cornelius de Witt.

Then began between the master and the pupil one of those
charming scenes which are the delight of the novelist who
has to describe them.

The grated window, the only opening through which the two
lovers were able to communicate, was too high for
conveniently reading a book, although it had been quite
convenient for them to read each other's faces.

Rosa therefore had to press the open book against the
grating edgewise, holding above it in her right hand the
lamp, but Cornelius hit upon the lucky idea of fixing it to
the bars, so as to afford her a little rest. Rosa was then
enabled to follow with her finger the letters and syllables,
which she was to spell for Cornelius, who with a straw
pointed out the letters to his attentive pupil through the
holes of the grating.

The light of the lamp illuminated the rich complexion of
Rosa, her blue liquid eyes, and her golden hair under her
head-dress of gold brocade, with her fingers held up, and
showing in the blood, as it flowed downwards in the veins
that pale pink hue which shines before the light owing to
the living transparency of the flesh tint.

Rosa's intellect rapidly developed itself under the
animating influence of Cornelius, and when the difficulties
seemed too arduous, the sympathy of two loving hearts seemed
to smooth them away.

And Rosa, after having returned to her room, repeated in her
solitude the reading lessons, and at the same time recalled
all the delight which she had felt whilst receiving them.

One evening she came half an hour later than usual. This was
too extraordinary an instance not to call forth at once
Cornelius's inquiries after its cause.

"Oh! do not be angry with me," she said, "it is not my
fault. My father has renewed an acquaintance with an old
crony who used to visit him at the Hague, and to ask him to
let him see the prison. He is a good sort of fellow, fond of
his bottle, tells funny stories, and moreover is very free
with his money, so as always to be ready to stand a treat."

"You don't know anything further of him?" asked Cornelius,

"No," she answered; "it's only for about a fortnight that my
father has taken such a fancy to this friend who is so
assiduous in visiting him."

"Ah, so," said Cornelius, shaking his head uneasily as every
new incident seemed to him to forebode some catastrophe;
"very likely some spy, one of those who are sent into jails
to watch both prisoners and their keepers."

"I don't believe that," said Rosa, smiling; "if that worthy
person is spying after any one, it is certainly not after my

"After whom, then?"

"Me, for instance."


"Why not?" said Rosa, smiling.

"Ah, that's true," Cornelius observed, with a sigh. "You
will not always have suitors in vain; this man may become
your husband."

"I don't say anything to the contrary."

"What cause have you to entertain such a happy prospect?"

"Rather say, this fear, Mynheer Cornelius."

"Thank you, Rosa, you are right; well, I will say then, this

"I have only this reason ---- "

"Tell me, I am anxious to hear."

"This man came several times before to the Buytenhof, at the
Hague. I remember now, it was just about the time when you
were confined there. When I left, he left too; when I came
here, he came after me. At the Hague his pretext was that he
wanted to see you."

"See me?"

"Yes, it must have undoubtedly been only a pretext for now,
when he could plead the same reason, as you are my father's
prisoner again, he does not care any longer for you; quite
the contrary, -- I heard him say to my father only yesterday
that he did not know you."

"Go on, Rosa, pray do, that I may guess who that man is, and
what he wants."

"Are you quite sure, Mynheer Cornelius, that none of your
friends can interest himself for you?"

"I have no friends, Rosa; I have only my old nurse, whom you
know, and who knows you. Alas, poor Sue! she would come
herself, and use no roundabout ways. She would at once say
to your father, or to you, 'My good sir, or my good miss, my
child is here; see how grieved I am; let me see him only for
one hour, and I'll pray for you as long as I live.' No, no,"
continued Cornelius; "with the exception of my poor old Sue,
I have no friends in this world."

"Then I come back to what I thought before; and the more so
as last evening at sunset, whilst I was arranging the border
where I am to plant your bulb, I saw a shadow gliding
between the alder trees and the aspens. I did not appear to
see him, but it was this man. He concealed himself and saw
me digging the ground, and certainly it was me whom he
followed, and me whom he was spying after. I could not move
my rake, or touch one atom of soil, without his noticing

"Oh, yes, yes, he is in love with you," said Cornelius. "Is
he young? Is he handsome?"

Saying this he looked anxiously at Rosa, eagerly waiting for
her answer.

"Young? handsome?" cried Rosa, bursting into a laugh. "He is
hideous to look at; crooked, nearly fifty years of age, and
never dares to look me in the face, or to speak, except in
an undertone."

"And his name?"

"Jacob Gisels."

"I don't know him."

"Then you see that, at all events, he does not come after

"At any rate, if he loves you, Rosa, which is very likely,
as to see you is to love you, at least you don't love him."

"To be sure I don't."

"Then you wish me to keep my mind easy?"

"I should certainly ask you to do so."

"Well, then, now as you begin to know how to read you will
read all that I write to you of the pangs of jealousy and of
absence, won't you, Rosa?"

"I shall read it, if you write with good big letters."

Then, as the turn which the conversation took began to make
Rosa uneasy, she asked, --

"By the bye, how is your tulip going on?"

"Oh, Rosa, only imagine my joy, this morning I looked at it
in the sun, and after having moved the soil aside which
covers the bulb, I saw the first sprouting of the leaves.
This small germ has caused me a much greater emotion than
the order of his Highness which turned aside the sword
already raised at the Buytenhof."

"You hope, then?" said Rosa, smiling.

"Yes, yes, I hope."

"And I, in my turn, when shall I plant my bulb?"

"Oh, the first favourable day I will tell you; but, whatever
you do, let nobody help you, and don't confide your secret
to any one in the world; do you see, a connoisseur by merely
looking at the bulb would be able to distinguish its value;
and so, my dearest Rosa, be careful in locking up the third
sucker which remains to you."

"It is still wrapped up in the same paper in which you put
it, and just as you gave it me. I have laid it at the bottom
of my chest under my point lace, which keeps it dry, without
pressing upon it. But good night, my poor captive

"How? already?"

"It must be, it must be."

"Coming so late and going so soon."

"My father might grow impatient not seeing me return, and
that precious lover might suspect a rival."

Here she listened uneasily.

"What is it?" asked Van Baerle. "I thought I heard

"What, then?"

"Something like a step, creaking on the staircase."

"Surely," said the prisoner, "that cannot be Master Gryphus,
he is always heard at a distance"

"No, it is not my father, I am quite sure, but ---- "


"But it might be Mynheer Jacob."

Rosa rushed toward the staircase, and a door was really
heard rapidly to close before the young damsel had got down
the first ten steps.

Cornelius was very uneasy about it, but it was after all
only a prelude to greater anxieties.

The flowing day passed without any remarkable incident.
Gryphus made his three visits, and discovered nothing. He
never came at the same hours as he hoped thus to discover
the secrets of the prisoner. Van Baerle, therefore, had
devised a contrivance, a sort of pulley, by means of which
he was able to lower or to raise his jug below the ledge of
tiles and stone before his window. The strings by which this
was effected he had found means to cover with that moss
which generally grows on tiles, or in the crannies of the

Gryphus suspected nothing, and the device succeeded for
eight days. One morning, however, when Cornelius, absorbed
in the contemplation of his bulb, from which a germ of
vegetation was already peeping forth, had not heard old
Gryphus coming upstairs as a gale of wind was blowing which
shook the whole tower, the door suddenly opened.

Gryphus, perceiving an unknown and consequently a forbidden
object in the hands of his prisoner, pounced upon it with
the same rapidity as the hawk on its prey.

As ill luck would have it, his coarse, hard hand, the same
which he had broken, and which Cornelius van Baerle had set
so well, grasped at once in the midst of the jug, on the
spot where the bulb was lying in the soil.

"What have you got here?" he roared. "Ah! have I caught
you?" and with this he grabbed in the soil.

"I? nothing, nothing," cried Cornelius, trembling.

"Ah! have I caught you? a jug and earth in it There is some
criminal secret at the bottom of all this."

"Oh, my good Master Gryphus," said Van Baerle, imploringly,
and anxious as the partridge robbed of her young by the

In fact, Gryphus was beginning to dig the soil with his

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest