Cornelius had not three hundred paces to walk outside the prison to reach th_oot of the scaffold. At the bottom of the staircase, the dog quietly looke_t him whilst he was passing; Cornelius even fancied he saw in the eyes of th_onster a certain expression as it were of compassion.
The dog perhaps knew the condemned prisoners, and only bit those who left a_ree 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 she_hree days before, were now craving for a new victim.
And scarcely had Cornelius made his appearance than a fierce groan ran throug_he whole street, spreading all over the yard, and re-echoing from the street_hich 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 i_rder 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, a_eylon, or Bengal, or elsewhere, when he would be able to look with pity o_his earth, where John and Cornelius de Witt had been murdered for havin_hought too much of politics, and where Cornelius van Baerle was about to b_urdered for having thought too much of tulips.
"It is only one stroke of the axe," said the philosopher to himself, "and m_eautiful dream will begin to be realised."
Only there was still a chance, just as it had happened before to M. d_halais, to M. de Thou, and other slovenly executed people, that the headsma_ight 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 les_esolutely, proud of having been the friend of that illustrious John, an_odson of that noble Cornelius de Witt, whom the ruffians, who were no_rowding to witness his own doom, had torn to pieces and burnt three day_efore.
He knelt down, said his prayers, and observed, not without a feeling o_incere joy, that, laying his head on the block, and keeping his eyes open, h_ould 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 col_amp block. But at this moment his eyes closed involuntarily, to receive mor_esolutely the terrible avalanche which was about to fall on his head, and t_ngulf his life.
A gleam like that of lightning passed across the scaffold: it was th_xecutioner raising his sword.
Van Baerle bade farewell to the great black tulip, certain of awaking i_nother world full of light and glorious tints.
Three times he felt, with a shudder, the cold current of air from the knif_ear 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 hi_eet again, although trembling a little.
He looked around him. There was some one by his side, reading a larg_archment, sealed with a huge seal of red wax.
And the same sun, yellow and pale, as it behooves a Dutch sun to be, wa_hining in the skies; and the same grated window looked down upon him from th_uytenhof; and the same rabble, no longer yelling, but completel_hunderstruck, 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'_lood would turn the scale of judgment against him, had compassionately take_nto consideration his good character, and the apparent proofs of hi_nnocence.
His Highness, accordingly, had granted him his life.
Cornelius at first hoped that the pardon would be complete, and that he woul_e restored to his full liberty and to his flower borders at Dort.
But Cornelius was mistaken. To use an expression of Madame de Sevigne, wh_rote about the same time, "there was a postscript to the letter;" and th_ost important part of the letter was contained in the postscript.
In this postscript, William of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland, condemne_ornelius van Baerle to imprisonment for life. He was not sufficiently guilt_o suffer death, but he was too much so to be set at liberty.
Cornelius heard this clause, but, the first feeling of vexation an_isappointment over, he said to himself, —
"Never mind, all this is not lost yet; there is some good in this perpetua_mprisonment; Rosa will be there, and also my three bulbs of the black tuli_re 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 th_ague, which is a capital.
His Highness, who, as it seems, did not possess the means to feed Van Baerl_t the Hague, sent him to undergo his perpetual imprisonment at the fortres_f Loewestein, very near Dort, but, alas! also very far from it; fo_oewestein, as the geographers tell us, is situated at the point of the isle_hich 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 tha_he celebrated Grotius was confined in that castle after the death o_arneveldt; and that the States, in their generosity to the illustriou_ublicist, jurist, historian, poet, and divine, had granted to him for hi_aily maintenance the sum of twenty-four stivers.
"I," said Van Baerle to himself, "I am worth much less than Grotius. They wil_ardly give me twelve stivers, and I shall live miserably; but never mind, a_ll 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 th_oil so bad for the tulips! And then Rosa will not be at Loewestein!"