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Chapter 22 The Opening of the Flower

  • 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?"
  • "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."
  • "By Jove!"
  • "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."
  • "Oh!"
  • "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?"
  • "Well?"
  • "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,
  • "Rosa Gryphus.
  • "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."