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Chapter 19 The Maid and the Flower

  • But poor Rosa, in her secluded chamber, could not have known of whom or o_hat Cornelius was dreaming.
  • From what he had said she was more ready to believe that he dreamed of th_lack tulip than of her; and yet Rosa was mistaken.
  • But as there was no one to tell her so, and as the words of Cornelius'_houghtless speech had fallen upon her heart like drops of poison, she did no_ream, but she wept.
  • The fact was, that, as Rosa was a high-spirited creature, of no mea_erception and a noble heart, she took a very clear and judicious view of he_wn social position, if not of her moral and physical qualities.
  • Cornelius was a scholar, and was wealthy, — at least he had been before th_onfiscation of his property; Cornelius belonged to the merchant-bourgeoisie, who were prouder of their richly emblazoned shop signs than the hereditar_obility of their heraldic bearings. Therefore, although he might find Rosa _leasant companion for the dreary hours of his captivity, when it came to _uestion of bestowing his heart it was almost certain that he would bestow i_pon a tulip, — that is to say, upon the proudest and noblest of flowers, rather than upon poor Rosa, the jailer's lowly child.
  • Thus Rosa understood Cornelius's preference of the tulip to herself, but wa_nly so much the more unhappy therefor.
  • During the whole of this terrible night the poor girl did not close an eye, and before she rose in the morning she had come to the resolution of makin_er appearance at the grated window no more.
  • But as she knew with what ardent desire Cornelius looked forward to the new_bout his tulip; and as, notwithstanding her determination not to see any mor_ man her pity for whose fate was fast growing into love, she did not, on th_ther hand, wish to drive him to despair, she resolved to continue by hersel_he reading and writing lessons; and, fortunately, she had made sufficien_rogress to dispense with the help of a master when the master was not to b_ornelius.
  • Rosa therefore applied herself most diligently to reading poor Cornelius d_itt's Bible, on the second fly leaf of which the last will of Cornelius va_aerle was written.
  • "Alas!" she muttered, when perusing again this document, which she neve_inished without a tear, the pearl of love, rolling from her limpid eyes o_er pale cheeks — "alas! at that time I thought for one moment he loved me."
  • Poor Rosa! she was mistaken. Never had the love of the prisoner been mor_incere than at the time at which we are now arrived, when in the contes_etween the black tulip and Rosa the tulip had had to yield to her the firs_nd foremost place in Cornelius's heart.
  • But Rosa was not aware of it.
  • Having finished reading, she took her pen, and began with as laudabl_iligence the by far more difficult task of writing.
  • As, however, Rosa was already able to write a legible hand when Cornelius s_ncautiously opened his heart, she did not despair of progressing quickl_nough to write, after eight days at the latest, to the prisoner an account o_is tulip.
  • She had not forgotten one word of the directions given to her by Cornelius, whose speeches she treasured in her heart, even when they did not take th_hape of directions.
  • He, on his part, awoke deeper in love than ever. The tulip, indeed, was stil_ luminous and prominent object in his mind; but he no longer looked upon i_s a treasure to which he ought to sacrifice everything, and even Rosa, but a_ marvellous combination of nature and art with which he would have been happ_o adorn the bosom of his beloved one.
  • Yet during the whole of that day he was haunted with a vague uneasiness, a_he bottom of which was the fear lest Rosa should not come in the evening t_ay him her usual visit. This thought took more and more hold of him, until a_he approach of evening his whole mind was absorbed in it.
  • How his heart beat when darkness closed in! The words which he had said t_osa on the evening before and which had so deeply afflicted her, now cam_ack to his mind more vividly than ever, and he asked himself how he coul_ave told his gentle comforter to sacrifice him to his tulip, — that is t_ay, to give up seeing him, if need be, — whereas to him the sight of Rosa ha_ecome a condition of life.
  • In Cornelius's cell one heard the chimes of the clock of the fortress. I_truck seven, it struck eight, it struck nine. Never did the metal voic_ibrate more forcibly through the heart of any man than did the last stroke, marking the ninth hour, through the heart of Cornelius.
  • All was then silent again. Cornelius put his hand on his heart, to repress a_t were its violent palpitation, and listened.
  • The noise of her footstep, the rustling of her gown on the staircase, were s_amiliar to his ear, that she had no sooner mounted one step than he used t_ay to himself, —
  • "Here comes Rosa."
  • This evening none of those little noises broke the silence of the lobby, th_lock struck nine, and a quarter; the half-hour, then a quarter to ten, and a_ast its deep tone announced, not only to the inmates of the fortress, bu_lso to all the inhabitants of Loewestein, that it was ten.
  • This was the hour at which Rosa generally used to leave Cornelius. The hou_ad struck, but Rosa had not come.
  • Thus then his foreboding had not deceived him; Rosa, being vexed, shut hersel_p in her room and left him to himself.
  • "Alas!" he thought, "I have deserved all this. She will come no more, and sh_s right in staying away; in her place I should do just the same."
  • Yet notwithstanding all this, Cornelius listened, waited, and hoped unti_idnight, then he threw himself upon the bed, with his clothes on.
  • It was a long and sad night for him, and the day brought no hope to th_risoner.
  • At eight in the morning, the door of his cell opened; but Cornelius did no_ven turn his head; he had heard the heavy step of Gryphus in the lobby, bu_his step had perfectly satisfied the prisoner that his jailer was comin_lone.
  • Thus Cornelius did not even look at Gryphus.
  • And yet he would have been so glad to draw him out, and to inquire about Rosa.
  • He even very nearly made this inquiry, strange as it would needs have appeare_o her father. To tell the truth, there was in all this some selfish hope t_ear from Gryphus that his daughter was ill.
  • Except on extraordinary occasions, Rosa never came during the day. Corneliu_herefore did not really expect her as long as the day lasted. Yet his sudde_tarts, his listening at the door, his rapid glances at every little nois_owards the grated window, showed clearly that the prisoner entertained som_atent hope that Rosa would, somehow or other, break her rule.
  • At the second visit of Gryphus, Cornelius, contrary to all his former habits, asked the old jailer, with the most winning voice, about her health; bu_ryphus contented himself with giving the laconical answer, —
  • "All's well."
  • At the third visit of the day, Cornelius changed his former inquiry: —
  • "I hope nobody is ill at Loewestein?"
  • "Nobody," replied, even more laconically, the jailer, shutting the door befor_he nose of the prisoner.
  • Gryphus, being little used to this sort of civility on the part of Cornelius, began to suspect that his prisoner was about to try and bribe him.
  • Cornelius was now alone once more; it was seven o'clock in the evening, an_he anxiety of yesterday returned with increased intensity.
  • But another time the hours passed away without bringing the sweet vision whic_ighted up, through the grated window, the cell of poor Cornelius, and which, in retiring, left light enough in his heart to last until it came back again.
  • Van Baerle passed the night in an agony of despair. On the following da_ryphus appeared to him even more hideous, brutal, and hateful than usual; i_is mind, or rather in his heart, there had been some hope that it was the ol_an who prevented his daughter from coming.
  • In his wrath he would have strangled Gryphus, but would not this hav_eparated him for ever from Rosa?
  • The evening closing in, his despair changed into melancholy, which was th_ore gloomy as, involuntarily, Van Baerle mixed up with it the thought of hi_oor tulip. It was now just that week in April which the most experience_ardeners point out as the precise time when tulips ought to be planted. H_ad said to Rosa, —
  • "I shall tell you the day when you are to put the bulb in the ground."
  • He had intended to fix, at the vainly hoped for interview, the following da_s the time for that momentous operation. The weather was propitious; the air, though still damp, began to be tempered by those pale rays of the April su_hich, being the first, appear so congenial, although so pale. How if Ros_llowed the right moment for planting the bulb to pass by, — if, in additio_o the grief of seeing her no more, he should have to deplore the misfortun_f seeing his tulip fail on account of its having been planted too late, or o_ts not having been planted at all!
  • These two vexations combined might well make him leave off eating an_rinking.
  • This was the case on the fourth day.
  • It was pitiful to see Cornelius, dumb with grief, and pale from utte_rostration, stretch out his head through the iron bars of his window, at th_isk of not being able to draw it back again, to try and get a glimpse of th_arden on the left spoken of by Rosa, who had told him that its parape_verlooked the river. He hoped that perhaps he might see, in the light of th_pril sun, Rosa or the tulip, the two lost objects of his love.
  • In the evening, Gryphus took away the breakfast and dinner of Cornelius, wh_ad scarcely touched them.
  • On the following day he did not touch them at all, and Gryphus carried th_ishes away just as he had brought them.
  • Cornelius had remained in bed the whole day.
  • "Well," said Gryphus, coming down from the last visit, "I think we shall soo_et rid of our scholar."
  • Rosa was startled.
  • "Nonsense!" said Jacob. "What do you mean?"
  • "He doesn't drink, he doesn't eat, he doesn't leave his bed. He will get ou_f it, like Mynheer Grotius, in a chest, only the chest will be a coffin."
  • Rosa grew pale as death.
  • "Ah!" she said to herself, "he is uneasy about his tulip."
  • And, rising with a heavy heart, she returned to her chamber, where she took _en and paper, and during the whole of that night busied herself with tracin_etters.
  • On the following morning, when Cornelius got up to drag himself to the window, he perceived a paper which had been slipped under the door.
  • He pounced upon it, opened it, and read the following words, in a handwritin_hich he could scarcely have recognized as that of Rosa, so much had sh_mproved during her short absence of seven days, —
  • "Be easy; your tulip is going on well."
  • Although these few words of Rosa's somewhat soothed the grief of Cornelius, yet he felt not the less the irony which was at the bottom of them. Rosa, then, was not ill, she was offended; she had not been forcibly prevented fro_oming, but had voluntarily stayed away. Thus Rosa, being at liberty, found i_er own will the force not to come and see him, who was dying with grief a_ot having seen her.
  • Cornelius had paper and a pencil which Rosa had brought to him. He guesse_hat she expected an answer, but that she would not come before the evening t_etch it. He therefore wrote on a piece of paper, similar to that which he ha_eceived, —
  • "It was not my anxiety about the tulip that has made me ill, but the grief a_ot seeing you."
  • After Gryphus had made his last visit of the day, and darkness had set in, h_lipped the paper under the door, and listened with the most intens_ttention, but he neither heard Rosa's footsteps nor the rustling of her gown.
  • He only heard a voice as feeble as a breath, and gentle like a caress, whic_hispered through the grated little window in the door the word, —
  • "To-morrow!"
  • Now to-morrow was the eighth day. For eight days Cornelius and Rosa had no_een each other.