The night passed away very sweetly for Cornelius, although in great agitation.
Every instant he fancied he heard the gentle voice of Rosa calling him. H_hen started up, went to the door, and looked through the grating, but no on_as behind it, and the lobby was empty.
Rosa, no doubt, would be watching too, but, happier than he, she watched ove_he tulip; she had before her eyes that noble flower, that wonder of wonders.
which not only was unknown, but was not even thought possible until then.
What would the world say when it heard that the black tulip was found, that i_xisted and that it was the prisoner Van Baerle who had found it?
How Cornelius would have spurned the offer of his liberty in exchange for hi_ulip!
Day came, without any news; the tulip was not yet in flower.
The day passed as the night. Night came, and with it Rosa, joyous and cheerfu_s a bird.
"Well?" asked Cornelius.
"Well, all is going on prosperously. This night, without any doubt, our tuli_ill be in flower."
"And will it flower black?"
"Black as jet."
"Without a speck of any other colour."
"Without one speck."
"Good Heavens! my dear Rosa, I have been dreaming all night, in the firs_lace of you," (Rosa made a sign of incredulity,) "and then of what we mus_o."
"Well, and I will tell you now what I have decided on. The tulip once being i_lower, and it being quite certain that it is perfectly black, you must find _essenger."
"If it is no more than that, I have a messenger quite ready."
"Is he safe?"
"One for whom I will answer, — he is one of my lovers."
"I hope not Jacob."
"No, be quiet, it is the ferryman of Loewestein, a smart young man of twenty- five."
"Be quiet," said Rosa, smiling, "he is still under age, as you have yoursel_ixed it from twenty-six to twenty-eight."
"In fine, do you think you may rely on this young man?"
"As on myself; he would throw himself into the Waal or the Meuse if I bad_im."
"Well, Rosa, this lad may be at Haarlem in ten hours; you will give me pape_nd pencil, and, perhaps better still, pen and ink, and I will write, o_ather, on second thoughts, you will, for if I did, being a poor prisoner, people might, like your father, see a conspiracy in it. You will write to th_resident of the Horticultural Society, and I am sure he will come."
"But if he tarries?"
"Well, let us suppose that he tarries one day, or even two; but it i_mpossible. A tulip-fancier like him will not tarry one hour, not one minute, not one second, to set out to see the eighth wonder of the world. But, as _aid, if he tarried one or even two days, the tulip will still be in its ful_plendour. The flower once being seen by the President, and the protocol bein_rawn up, all is in order; you will only keep a duplicate of the protocol, an_ntrust the tulip to him. Ah! if we had been able to carry it ourselves, Rosa, it would never have left my hands but to pass into yours; but this is a dream, which we must not entertain," continued Cornelius with a sigh, "the eyes o_trangers will see it flower to the last. And above all, Rosa, before th_resident has seen it, let it not be seen by any one. Alas! if any one saw th_lack tulip, it would be stolen."
"Did you not tell me yourself of what you apprehended from your lover Jacob?
People will steal one guilder, why not a hundred thousand?"
"I shall watch; be quiet."
"But if it opened whilst you were here?"
"The whimsical little thing would indeed be quite capable of playing such _rick," said Rosa.
"And if on your return you find it open?"
"Oh, Rosa, whenever it opens, remember that not a moment must be lost i_pprising the President."
"And in apprising you. Yes, I understand."
Rosa sighed, yet without any bitter feeling, but rather like a woman wh_egins to understand a foible, and to accustom herself to it.
"I return to your tulip, Mynheer van Baerle, and as soon as it opens I wil_ive you news, which being done the messenger will set out immediately."
"Rosa, Rosa, I don't know to what wonder under the sun I shall compare you."
"Compare me to the black tulip, and I promise you I shall feel very muc_lattered. Good night, then, till we meet again, Mynheer Cornelius."
"Oh, say 'Good night, my friend.'"
"Good night, my friend," said Rosa, a little consoled.
"Say, 'My very dear friend.'"
"Oh, my friend — "
"Very dear friend, I entreat you, say 'very dear,' Rosa, very dear."
"Very dear, yes, very dear," said Rosa, with a beating heart, beyond hersel_ith happiness.
"And now that you have said 'very dear,' dear Rosa, say also 'most happy': say
'happier and more blessed than ever man was under the sun.' I only lack on_hing, Rosa."
"And that is?"
"Your cheek, — your fresh cheek, your soft, rosy cheek. Oh, Rosa, give it m_f your own free will, and not by chance. Ah!"
The prisoner's prayer ended in a sigh of ecstasy; his lips met those of th_aiden, — not by chance, nor by stratagem, but as Saint-Preux's was to mee_he lips of Julie a hundred years later.
Rosa made her escape.
Cornelius stood with his heart upon his lips, and his face glued to the wicke_n the door.
He was fairly choking with happiness and joy. He opened his window, and gaze_ong, with swelling heart, at the cloudless vault of heaven, and the moon, which shone like silver upon the two-fold stream flowing from far beyond th_ills. He filled his lungs with the pure, sweet air, while his brain dwel_pon thoughts of happiness, and his heart overflowed with gratitude an_eligious fervour.
"Oh Thou art always watching from on high, my God," he cried, half prostrate, his glowing eyes fixed upon the stars: "forgive me that I almost doubted Th_xistence during these latter days, for Thou didst hide Thy face behind th_louds, and wert for a moment lost to my sight, O Thou merciful God, Tho_itying Father everlasting! But to-day, this evening, and to-night, again _ee Thee in all Thy wondrous glory in the mirror of Thy heavenly abode, an_ore clearly still in the mirror of my grateful heart."
He was well again, the poor invalid; the wretched captive was free once more.
During part of the night Cornelius, with his heart full of joy and delight, remained at his window, gazing at the stars, and listening for every sound.
Then casting a glance from time to time towards the lobby, —
"Down there," he said, "is Rosa, watching like myself, and waiting from minut_o minute; down there, under Rosa's eyes, is the mysterious flower, whic_ives, which expands, which opens, perhaps Rosa holds in this moment the ste_f the tulip between her delicate fingers. Touch it gently, Rosa. Perhaps sh_ouches with her lips its expanding chalice. Touch it cautiously, Rosa, you_ips are burning. Yes, perhaps at this moment the two objects of my deares_ove caress each other under the eye of Heaven."
At this moment, a star blazed in the southern sky, and shot through the whol_orizon, falling down, as it were, on the fortress of Loewestein.
Cornelius felt a thrill run through his frame.
"Ah!" he said, "here is Heaven sending a soul to my flower."
And as if he had guessed correctly, nearly at that very moment the prisone_eard in the lobby a step light as that of a sylph, and the rustling of _own, and a well-known voice, which said to him, —
"Cornelius, my friend, my very dear friend, and very happy friend, come, com_uickly."
Cornelius darted with one spring from the window to the door, his lips me_hose of Rosa, who told him, with a kiss, —
"It is open, it is black, here it is."
"How! here it is?" exclaimed Cornelius.
"Yes, yes, we ought indeed to run some little risk to give a great joy; her_t is, take it."
And with one hand she raised to the level of the grating a dark lantern, whic_he had lit in the meanwhile, whilst with the other she held to the sam_eight the miraculous tulip.
Cornelius uttered a cry, and was nearly fainting.
"Oh!" muttered he, "my God, my God, Thou dost reward me for my innocence an_y captivity, as Thou hast allowed two such flowers to grow at the grate_indow of my prison!"
The tulip was beautiful, splendid, magnificent; its stem was more tha_ighteen inches high; it rose from out of four green leaves, which were a_mooth and straight as iron lance-heads; the whole of the flower was as blac_nd shining as jet.
"Rosa," said Cornelius, almost gasping, "Rosa, there is not one moment to los_n writing the letter."
"It is written, my dearest Cornelius," said Rosa.
"Is it, indeed?"
"Whilst the tulip opened I wrote it myself, for I did not wish to lose _oment. Here is the letter, and tell me whether you approve of it."
Cornelius took the letter, and read, in a handwriting which was much improve_ven since the last little note he had received from Rosa, as follows: —
"Mynheer President, — The black tulip is about to open, perhaps in te_inutes. As soon as it is open, I shall send a messenger to you, with th_equest that you will come and fetch it in person from the fortress a_oewestein. I am the daughter of the jailer, Gryphus, almost as much of _aptive as the prisoners of my father. I cannot, therefore, bring to you thi_onderful flower. This is the reason why I beg you to come and fetch i_ourself.
"It is my wish that it should be called Rosa Barlaensis.
"It has opened; it is perfectly black; come, Mynheer President, come.
"I have the honour to be your humble servant,
"That's it, dear Rosa, that's it. Your letter is admirable! I could not hav_ritten it with such beautiful simplicity. You will give to the committee al_he information that will be required of you. They will then know how th_ulip has been grown, how much care and anxiety, and how many sleeples_ights, it has cost. But for the present not a minute must be lost. Th_essenger! the messenger!"
"What's the name of the President?"
"Give me the letter, I will direct it. Oh, he is very well known: it i_ynheer van Systens, the burgomaster of Haarlem; give it to me, Rosa, give i_o me."
And with a trembling hand Cornelius wrote the address, —
"To Mynheer Peter van Systens, Burgomaster, and President of the Horticultura_ociety of Haarlem."
"And now, Rosa, go, go," said Cornelius, "and let us implore the protection o_od, who has so kindly watched over us until now."