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Chapter 20 The Events which took place during those Eight Days

  • On the following evening, at the usual hour, Van Baerle heard some one scratc_t the grated little window, just as Rosa had been in the habit of doing i_he heyday of their friendship.
  • Cornelius being, as may easily be imagined, not far off from the door, perceived Rosa, who at last was waiting again for him with her lamp in he_and.
  • Seeing him so sad and pale, she was startled, and said, —
  • "You are ill, Mynheer Cornelius?"
  • "Yes, I am," he answered, as indeed he was suffering in mind and in body.
  • "I saw that you did not eat," said Rosa; "my father told me that you remaine_n bed all day. I then wrote to calm your uneasiness concerning the fate o_he most precious object of your anxiety."
  • "And I," said Cornelius, "I have answered. Seeing your return, my dear Rosa, _hought you had received my letter."
  • "It is true; I have received it."
  • "You cannot this time excuse yourself with not being able to read. Not only d_ou read very fluently, but also you have made marvellous progress i_riting."
  • "Indeed, I have not only received, but also read your note. Accordingly I a_ome to see whether there might not be some remedy to restore you to health."
  • "Restore me to health?" cried Cornelius; "but have you any good news t_ommunicate to me?"
  • Saying this, the poor prisoner looked at Rosa, his eyes sparkling with hope.
  • Whether she did not, or would not, understand this look, Rosa answere_ravely, —
  • "I have only to speak to you about your tulip, which, as I well know, is th_bject uppermost in your mind."
  • Rosa pronounced those few words in a freezing tone, which cut deeply into th_eart of Cornelius. He did not suspect what lay hidden under this appearanc_f indifference with which the poor girl affected to speak of her rival, th_lack tulip.
  • "Oh!" muttered Cornelius, "again! again! Have I not told you, Rosa, that _hought but of you? that it was you alone whom I regretted, you whom I missed, you whose absence I felt more than the loss of liberty and of life itself?"
  • Rosa smiled with a melancholy air.
  • "Ah!" she said, "your tulip has been in such danger."
  • Cornelius trembled involuntarily, and showed himself clearly to be caught i_he trap, if ever the remark was meant as such.
  • "Danger!" he cried, quite alarmed; "what danger?"
  • Rosa looked at him with gentle compassion; she felt that what she wished wa_eyond the power of this man, and that he must be taken as he was, with hi_ittle foible.
  • "Yes," she said, "you have guessed the truth; that suitor and amorous swain, Jacob, did not come on my account."
  • "And what did he come for?" Cornelius anxiously asked.
  • "He came for the sake of the tulip."
  • "Alas!" said Cornelius, growing even paler at this piece of information tha_e had been when Rosa, a fortnight before, had told him that Jacob was comin_or her sake.
  • Rosa saw this alarm, and Cornelius guessed, from the expression of her face, in what direction her thoughts were running.
  • "Oh, pardon me, Rosa!" he said, "I know you, and I am well aware of th_indness and sincerity of your heart. To you God has given the thought an_trength for defending yourself; but to my poor tulip, when it is in danger, God has given nothing of the sort."
  • Rosa, without replying to this excuse of the prisoner, continued, —
  • "From the moment when I first knew that you were uneasy on account of the ma_ho followed me, and in whom I had recognized Jacob, I was even more uneas_yself. On the day, therefore, after that on which I saw you last, and o_hich you said — "
  • Cornelius interrupted her.
  • "Once more, pardon me, Rosa!" he cried. "I was wrong in saying to you what _aid. I have asked your pardon for that unfortunate speech before. I ask i_gain: shall I always ask it in vain?"
  • "On the following day," Rosa continued, "remembering what you had told m_bout the stratagem which I was to employ to ascertain whether that odious ma_as after the tulip, or after me —— "
  • "Yes, yes, odious. Tell me," he said, "do you hate that man?"
  • "I do hate him," said Rosa, "as he is the cause of all the unhappiness I hav_uffered these eight days."
  • "You, too, have been unhappy, Rosa? I thank you a thousand times for this kin_onfession."
  • "Well, on the day after that unfortunate one, I went down into the garden an_roceeded towards the border where I was to plant your tulip, looking roun_ll the while to see whether I was again followed as I was last time."
  • "And then?" Cornelius asked.
  • "And then the same shadow glided between the gate and the wall, and once mor_isappeared behind the elder-trees."
  • "You feigned not to see him, didn't you?" Cornelius asked, remembering all th_etails of the advice which he had given to Rosa.
  • "Yes, and I stooped over the border, in which I dug with a spade, as if I wa_oing to put the bulb in."
  • "And he, — what did he do during all this time?"
  • "I saw his eyes glisten through the branches of the tree like those of _iger."
  • "There you see, there you see!" cried Cornelius.
  • "Then, after having finished my make-believe work, I retired."
  • "But only behind the garden door, I dare say, so that you might see throug_he keyhole what he was going to do when you had left?"
  • "He waited for a moment, very likely to make sure of my not coming back, afte_hich he sneaked forth from his hiding-place, and approached the border by _ong round-about; at last, having reached his goal, that is to say, the spo_here the ground was newly turned, he stopped with a careless air, lookin_bout in all directions, and scanning every corner of the garden, every windo_f the neighbouring houses, and even the sky; after which, thinking himsel_uite alone, quite isolated, and out of everybody's sight, he pounced upon th_order, plunged both his hands into the soft soil, took a handful of th_ould, which he gently frittered between his fingers to see whether the bul_as in it, and repeated the same thing twice or three times, until at last h_erceived that he was outwitted. Then, keeping down the agitation which wa_aging in his breast, he took up the rake, smoothed the ground, so as to leav_t on his retiring in the same state as he had found it, and, quite abashe_nd rueful, walked back to the door, affecting the unconcerned air of a_rdinary visitor of the garden."
  • "Oh, the wretch!" muttered Cornelius, wiping the cold sweat from his brow.
  • "Oh, the wretch! I guessed his intentions. But the bulb, Rosa; what have yo_one with it? It is already rather late to plant it."
  • "The bulb? It has been in the ground for these six days."
  • "Where? and how?" cried Cornelius. "Good Heaven, what imprudence! What is it?
  • In what sort of soil is it? It what aspect? Good or bad? Is there no risk o_aving it filched by that detestable Jacob?"
  • "There is no danger of its being stolen," said Rosa, "unless Jacob will forc_he door of my chamber."
  • "Oh! then it is with you in your bedroom?" said Cornelius, somewhat relieved.
  • "But in what soil? in what vessel? You don't let it grow, I hope, in wate_ike those good ladies of Haarlem and Dort, who imagine that water coul_eplace the earth?"
  • "You may make yourself comfortable on that score," said Rosa, smiling; "you_ulb is not growing in water."
  • "I breathe again."
  • "It is in a good, sound stone pot, just about the size of the jug in which yo_ad planted yours. The soil is composed of three parts of common mould, take_rom the best spot of the garden, and one of the sweepings of the road. I hav_eard you and that detestable Jacob, as you call him, so often talk about wha_s the soil best fitted for growing tulips, that I know it as well as th_irst gardener of Haarlem."
  • "And now what is the aspect, Rosa?"
  • "At present it has the sun all day long, — that is to say when the sun shines.
  • But when it once peeps out of the ground, I shall do as you have done here, dear Mynheer Cornelius: I shall put it out of my window on the eastern sid_rom eight in the morning until eleven and in my window towards the west fro_hree to five in the afternoon."
  • "That's it! that's it!" cried Cornelius; "and you are a perfect gardener, m_retty Rosa. But I am afraid the nursing of my tulip will take up all you_ime."
  • "Yes, it will," said Rosa; "but never mind. Your tulip is my daughter. I shal_evote to it the same time as I should to a child of mine, if I were a mother.
  • Only by becoming its mother," Rosa added, smilingly, "can I cease to be it_ival."
  • "My kind and pretty Rosa!" muttered Cornelius casting on her a glance in whic_here was much more of the lover than of the gardener, and which afforded Ros_ome consolation.
  • Then, after a silence of some moments, during which Cornelius had graspe_hrough the openings of the grating for the receding hand of Rosa, he said, —
  • "Do you mean to say that the bulb has now been in the ground for six days?"
  • "Yes, six days, Mynheer Cornelius," she answered.
  • "And it does not yet show leaf"
  • "No, but I think it will to-morrow."
  • "Well, then, to-morrow you will bring me news about it, and about yourself, won't you, Rosa? I care very much for the daughter, as you called it just now, but I care even much more for the mother."
  • "To-morrow?" said Rosa, looking at Cornelius askance. "I don't know whether _hall be able to come to-morrow."
  • "Good heavens!" said Cornelius, "why can't you come to-morrow?"
  • "Mynheer Cornelius, I have lots of things to do."
  • "And I have only one," muttered Cornelius.
  • "Yes," said Rosa, "to love your tulip."
  • "To love you, Rosa."
  • Rosa shook her head, after which followed a pause.
  • "Well," — Cornelius at last broke the silence, — "well, Rosa, everythin_hanges in the realm of nature; the flowers of spring are succeeded by othe_lowers; and the bees, which so tenderly caressed the violets and the wall- flowers, will flutter with just as much love about the honey-suckles, th_ose, the jessamine, and the carnation."
  • "What does all this mean?" asked Rosa.
  • "You have abandoned me, Miss Rosa, to seek your pleasure elsewhere. You hav_one well, and I will not complain. What claim have I to your fidelity?"
  • "My fidelity!" Rosa exclaimed, with her eyes full of tears, and without carin_ny longer to hide from Cornelius this dew of pearls dropping on her cheeks,
  • "my fidelity! have I not been faithful to you?"
  • "Do you call it faithful to desert me, and to leave me here to die?"
  • "But, Mynheer Cornelius," said Rosa, "am I not doing everything for you tha_ould give you pleasure? have I not devoted myself to your tulip?"
  • "You are bitter, Rosa, you reproach me with the only unalloyed pleasure whic_ have had in this world."
  • "I reproach you with nothing, Mynheer Cornelius, except, perhaps, with th_ntense grief which I felt when people came to tell me at the Buytenhof tha_ou were about to be put to death."
  • "You are displeased, Rosa, my sweet girl, with my loving flowers."
  • "I am not displeased with your loving them, Mynheer Cornelius, only it make_e sad to think that you love them better than you do me."
  • "Oh, my dear, dear Rosa! look how my hands tremble; look at my pale cheek, hear how my heart beats. It is for you, my love, not for the black tulip.
  • Destroy the bulb, destroy the germ of that flower, extinguish the gentle ligh_f that innocent and delightful dream, to which I have accustomed myself; bu_ove me, Rosa, love me; for I feel deeply that I love but you."
  • "Yes, after the black tulip," sighed Rosa, who at last no longer coyl_ithdrew her warm hands from the grating, as Cornelius most affectionatel_issed them.
  • "Above and before everything in this world, Rosa."
  • "May I believe you?"
  • "As you believe in your own existence."
  • "Well, then, be it so; but loving me does not bind you too much."
  • "Unfortunately, it does not bind me more than I am bound; but it binds you, Rosa, you."
  • "To what?"
  • "First of all, not to marry."
  • She smiled.
  • "That's your way," she said; "you are tyrants all of you. You worship _ertain beauty, you think of nothing but her. Then you are condemned to death, and whilst walking to the scaffold, you devote to her your last sigh; and no_ou expect poor me to sacrifice to you all my dreams and my happiness."
  • "But who is the beauty you are talking of, Rosa?" said Cornelius, trying i_ain to remember a woman to whom Rosa might possibly be alluding.
  • "The dark beauty with a slender waist, small feet, and a noble head; in short, I am speaking of your flower."
  • Cornelius smiled.
  • "That is an imaginary lady love, at all events; whereas, without counting tha_morous Jacob, you by your own account are surrounded with all sorts of swain_ager to make love to you. Do you remember Rosa, what you told me of th_tudents, officers, and clerks of the Hague? Are there no clerks, officers, o_tudents at Loewestein?"
  • "Indeed there are, and lots of them."
  • "Who write letters?"
  • "They do write."
  • "And now, as you know how to read —— "
  • Here Cornelius heaved a sigh at the thought, that, poor captive as he was, t_im alone Rosa owed the faculty of reading the love-letters which sh_eceived.
  • "As to that," said Rosa, "I think that in reading the notes addressed to me, and passing the different swains in review who send them to me, I am onl_ollowing your instructions."
  • "How so? My instructions?"
  • "Indeed, your instructions, sir," said Rosa, sighing in her turn; "have yo_orgotten the will written by your hand on the Bible of Cornelius de Witt? _ave not forgotten it; for now, as I know how to read, I read it every da_ver and over again. In that will you bid me to love and marry a handsom_oung man of twenty-six or eight years. I am on the look-out for that youn_an, and as the whole of my day is taken up with your tulip, you must need_eave me the evenings to find him."
  • "But, Rosa, the will was made in the expectation of death, and, thanks t_eaven, I am still alive."
  • "Well, then, I shall not be after the handsome young man, and I shall come t_ee you."
  • "That's it, Rosa, come! come!"
  • "Under one condition."
  • "Granted beforehand!"
  • "That the black tulip shall not be mentioned for the next three days."
  • "It shall never be mentioned any more, if you wish it, Rosa."
  • "No, no," the damsel said, laughing, "I will not ask for impossibilities."
  • And, saying this, she brought her fresh cheek, as if unconsciously, so nea_he iron grating, that Cornelius was able to touch it with his lips.
  • Rosa uttered a little scream, which, however, was full of love, an_isappeared.