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 compromised himself.
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 terni."
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 himself.
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 brown.
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 ours.
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 observation.
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 limpid element.
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 telescope.
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.
Chapter 7. 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 profane uninitiated.
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 child.
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 importance.
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 received.
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 his coach.
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 Haarlem Society.
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 nigra Barlaensis?
"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 round.
"Who is here?" he asked.
"Sir," answered the servant, "it is a messenger from the Hague."
"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 the dry-room.
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 moment."
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 quite cold.
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 here?"
"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, don't you?"
"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 whole cabinet.
"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 his papers.
"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 drawer myself."
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 his godson.
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.
Chapter 8. An Invasion
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 scaffold.
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 heaven."
"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 effect.
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 the dry-room.
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 man,—
"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 counterpane.
"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 unintelligible voice.
"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 it."
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 imagination.
"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 forward to.
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 utmost confusion.
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 descended.
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 it away.
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 them?"
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 hideous smile.
"The bulbs are at the Hague," he said, "therefore, I can no longer live at Dort: away, then, for them, to the Hague! to the Hague!"
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 his house.
Chapter 9. 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 prisoner.
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 Tol-Hek?
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 return."
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 cell."
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 cell.
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 window.
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 before him.
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 sign-painter:—
"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 France."
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 executed."
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 ignominious death.
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.
Chapter 10. 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 heart.
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 charity."
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 the ground."
"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 still more."
"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 him.
Gryphus sat down; then, turning towards his daughter, he said,—
"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 awaits you."
"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 impatience.
"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 I stay."
"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 De Witts?"
"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 each other."
"What harm would that do?"
"What harm? He would never allow me to come here any more," said Rosa.
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 left.
"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 diet too."
"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."
Chapter 11. 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.
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 prison.
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 comprised."
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 spare."
"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 breast.
"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 bullied."
"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 child."
"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."
"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 combined.
"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 read."
Cornelius then read to Rosa the testament that he had just made.
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 keep."
"Which? I should have thought that all was settled between us."
"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 duty.
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 victim.
And scarcely had Cornelius made his appearance than a fierce groan ran through the whole street, spreading all over the yard, and re-echoing from the streets which led to the scaffold, and which were likewise crowded with spectators.
The scaffold indeed looked like an islet at the confluence of several rivers.
In the midst of these threats, groans, and yells, Cornelius, very likely in order not to hear them, had buried himself in his own thoughts.
And what did he think of in his last melancholy journey?
Neither of his enemies, nor of his judges, nor of his executioners.
He thought of the beautiful tulips which he would see from heaven above, at Ceylon, or Bengal, or elsewhere, when he would be able to look with pity on this earth, where John and Cornelius de Witt had been murdered for having thought too much of politics, and where Cornelius van Baerle was about to be murdered for having thought too much of tulips.
"It is only one stroke of the axe," said the philosopher to himself, "and my beautiful dream will begin to be realised."
Only there was still a chance, just as it had happened before to M. de Chalais, to M. de Thou, and other slovenly executed people, that the headsman might inflict more than one stroke, that is to say, more than one martyrdom, on the poor tulip-fancier.
Yet, notwithstanding all this, Van Baerle mounted the scaffold not the less resolutely, proud of having been the friend of that illustrious John, and godson of that noble Cornelius de Witt, whom the ruffians, who were now crowding to witness his own doom, had torn to pieces and burnt three days before.
He knelt down, said his prayers, and observed, not without a feeling of sincere joy, that, laying his head on the block, and keeping his eyes open, he would be able to his last moment to see the grated window of the Buytenhof.
At length the fatal moment arrived, and Cornelius placed his chin on the cold damp block. But at this moment his eyes closed involuntarily, to receive more resolutely the terrible avalanche which was about to fall on his head, and to engulf his life.
A gleam like that of lightning passed across the scaffold: it was the executioner raising his sword.
Van Baerle bade farewell to the great black tulip, certain of awaking in another world full of light and glorious tints.
Three times he felt, with a shudder, the cold current of air from the knife near his neck, but what a surprise! he felt neither pain nor shock.
He saw no change in the colour of the sky, or of the world around him.
Then suddenly Van Baerle felt gentle hands raising him, and soon stood on his feet again, although trembling a little.
He looked around him. There was some one by his side, reading a large parchment, sealed with a huge seal of red wax.
And the same sun, yellow and pale, as it behooves a Dutch sun to be, was shining in the skies; and the same grated window looked down upon him from the Buytenhof; and the same rabble, no longer yelling, but completely thunderstruck, were staring at him from the streets below.
Van Baerle began to be sensible to what was going on around him.
His Highness, William, Prince of Orange, very likely afraid that Van Baerle's blood would turn the scale of judgment against him, had compassionately taken into consideration his good character, and the apparent proofs of his innocence.
His Highness, accordingly, had granted him his life.
Cornelius at first hoped that the pardon would be complete, and that he would be restored to his full liberty and to his flower borders at Dort.
But Cornelius was mistaken. To use an expression of Madame de Sevigne, who wrote about the same time, "there was a postscript to the letter;" and the most important part of the letter was contained in the postscript.
In this postscript, William of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland, condemned Cornelius van Baerle to imprisonment for life. He was not sufficiently guilty to suffer death, but he was too much so to be set at liberty.
Cornelius heard this clause, but, the first feeling of vexation and disappointment over, he said to himself,—
"Never mind, all this is not lost yet; there is some good in this perpetual imprisonment; Rosa will be there, and also my three bulbs of the black tulip are there."
But Cornelius forgot that the Seven Provinces had seven prisons, one for each, and that the board of the prisoner is anywhere else less expensive than at the Hague, which is a capital.
His Highness, who, as it seems, did not possess the means to feed Van Baerle at the Hague, sent him to undergo his perpetual imprisonment at the fortress of Loewestein, very near Dort, but, alas! also very far from it; for Loewestein, as the geographers tell us, is situated at the point of the islet which is formed by the confluence of the Waal and the Meuse, opposite Gorcum.
Van Baerle was sufficiently versed in the history of his country to know that the celebrated Grotius was confined in that castle after the death of Barneveldt; and that the States, in their generosity to the illustrious publicist, jurist, historian, poet, and divine, had granted to him for his daily maintenance the sum of twenty-four stivers.
"I," said Van Baerle to himself, "I am worth much less than Grotius. They will hardly give me twelve stivers, and I shall live miserably; but never mind, at all events I shall live."
Then suddenly a terrible thought struck him.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "how damp and misty that part of the country is, and the soil so bad for the tulips! And then Rosa will not be at Loewestein!"
Chapter 13. What was going on all this Time in the Mind of one of the Spectators
Whilst Cornelius was engaged with his own thoughts, a coach had driven up to the scaffold. This vehicle was for the prisoner. He was invited to enter it, and he obeyed.
His last look was towards the Buytenhof. He hoped to see at the window the face of Rosa, brightening up again.
But the coach was drawn by good horses, who soon carried Van Baerle away from among the shouts which the rabble roared in honour of the most magnanimous Stadtholder, mixing with it a spice of abuse against the brothers De Witt and the godson of Cornelius, who had just now been saved from death.
This reprieve suggested to the worthy spectators remarks such as the following:—
"It's very fortunate that we used such speed in having justice done to that great villain John, and to that little rogue Cornelius, otherwise his Highness might have snatched them from us, just as he has done this fellow."
Among all the spectators whom Van Baerle's execution had attracted to the Buytenhof, and whom the sudden turn of affairs had disagreeably surprised, undoubtedly the one most disappointed was a certain respectably dressed burgher, who from early morning had made such a good use of his feet and elbows that he at last was separated from the scaffold only by the file of soldiers which surrounded it.
Many had shown themselves eager to see the perfidious blood of the guilty Cornelius flow, but not one had shown such a keen 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 tulip.
Boxtel had at first tried to gain over Gryphus to his interest, but the jailer had not only the snarling fierceness, but likewise the fidelity, of a dog. He had therefore bristled up at Boxtel's hatred, whom he had suspected to be a warm friend of the prisoner, making trifling inquiries to contrive with the more certainty some means of escape for him.
Thus to the very first proposals which Boxtel made to Gryphus to filch the bulbs which Cornelius van Baerle must be supposed to conceal, if not in his breast, at least in some corner of his cell, the surly jailer had only answered by kicking Mynheer Isaac out, and setting the dog at him.
The piece which the mastiff had torn from his hose did not discourage Boxtel. He came back to the charge, but this time Gryphus was in bed, feverish, and with a broken arm. He therefore was not able to admit the petitioner, who then addressed himself to Rosa, offering to buy her a head-dress of pure gold if she would get the bulbs for him. On this, the generous girl, although not yet knowing the value of the object of the robbery, which was to be so well remunerated, had directed the tempter to the executioner, as the heir of the prisoner.
In the meanwhile the sentence had been pronounced. Thus Isaac had no more time to bribe any one. He therefore clung to the idea which Rosa had suggested: he went to the executioner.
Isaac had not the least doubt that Cornelius would die with the bulbs on his heart.
But there were two things which Boxtel did not calculate upon:—
Rosa, that is to say, love;
William of Orange, that is to say, clemency.
But for Rosa and William, the calculations of the envious neighbour would have been correct.
But for William, Cornelius would have died.
But for Rosa, Cornelius would have died with his bulbs on his heart.
Mynheer Boxtel went to the headsman, to whom he gave himself out as a great friend of the condemned man; and from whom he bought all the clothes of the dead man that was to be, for one hundred guilders; rather an exorbitant sum, as he engaged to leave all the trinkets of gold and silver to the executioner.
But what was the sum of a hundred guilders to a man who was all but sure to buy with it the prize of the Haarlem Society?
It was money lent at a thousand per cent., which, as nobody will deny, was a very handsome investment.
The headsman, on the other hand, had scarcely anything to do to earn his hundred guilders. He needed only, as soon as the execution was over, to allow Mynheer Boxtel to ascend the scaffold with his servants, to remove the inanimate remains of his friend.
The thing was, moreover, quite customary among the "faithful brethren," when one of their masters died a public death in the yard of the Buytenhof.
A fanatic like Cornelius might very easily have found another fanatic who would give a hundred guilders for his remains.
The executioner also readily acquiesced in the proposal, making only one condition,—that of being paid in advance.
Boxtel, like the people who enter a show at a fair, might be disappointed, and refuse to pay on going out.
Boxtel paid in advance, and waited.
After this, the reader may imagine how excited Boxtel was; with what 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.