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Chapter 25 The President van Systens

  • Rosa, on leaving Cornelius, had fixed on her plan, which was no other than t_estore to Cornelius the stolen tulip, or never to see him again.
  • She had seen the despair of the prisoner, and she knew that it was derive_rom a double source, and that it was incurable.
  • On the one hand, separation became inevitable, — Gryphus having at the sam_ime surprised the secret of their love and of their secret meetings.
  • On the other hand, all the hopes on the fulfilment of which Cornelius va_aerle had rested his ambition for the last seven years were now crushed.
  • Rosa was one of those women who are dejected by trifles, but who in grea_mergencies are supplied by the misfortune itself with the energy fo_ombating or with the resources for remedying it.
  • She went to her room, and cast a last glance about her to see whether she ha_ot been mistaken, and whether the tulip was not stowed away in some corne_here it had escaped her notice. But she sought in vain, the tulip was stil_issing; the tulip was indeed stolen.
  • Rosa made up a little parcel of things indispensable for a journey; took he_hree hundred guilders, — that is to say, all her fortune, — fetched the thir_ulb from among her lace, where she had laid it up, and carefully hid it i_er bosom; after which she locked her door twice to disguise her flight a_ong as possible, and, leaving the prison by the same door which an hou_efore had let out Boxtel, she went to a stable-keeper to hire a carriage.
  • The man had only a two-wheel chaise, and this was the vehicle which Boxtel ha_ired since last evening, and in which he was now driving along the road t_elft; for the road from Loewestein to Haarlem, owing to the many canals, rivers, and rivulets intersecting the country, is exceedingly circuitous.
  • Not being able to procure a vehicle, Rosa was obliged to take a horse, wit_hich the stable-keeper readily intrusted her, knowing her to be the daughte_f the jailer of the fortress.
  • Rosa hoped to overtake her messenger, a kind-hearted and honest lad, whom sh_ould take with her, and who might at the same time serve her as a guide and _rotector.
  • And in fact she had not proceeded more than a league before she saw hi_astening along one of the side paths of a very pretty road by the river.
  • Setting her horse off at a canter, she soon came up with him.
  • The honest lad was not aware of the important character of his message; nevertheless, he used as much speed as if he had known it; and in less than a_our he had already gone a league and a half.
  • Rosa took from him the note, which had now become useless, and explained t_im what she wanted him to do for her. The boatman placed himself entirely a_er disposal, promising to keep pace with the horse if Rosa would allow him t_ake hold of either the croup or the bridle of her horse. The two traveller_ad been on their way for five hours, and made more than eight leagues, an_et Gryphus had not the least suspicion of his daughter having left th_ortress.
  • The jailer, who was of a very spiteful and cruel disposition, chuckled withi_imself at the idea of having struck such terror into his daughter's heart.
  • But whilst he was congratulating himself on having such a nice story to tel_o his boon companion, Jacob, that worthy was on his road to Delft; and, thanks to the swiftness of the horse, had already the start of Rosa and he_ompanion by four leagues.
  • And whilst the affectionate father was rejoicing at the thought of hi_aughter weeping in her room, Rosa was making the best of her way toward_aarlem.
  • Thus the prisoner alone was where Gryphus thought him to be.
  • Rosa was so little with her father since she took care of the tulip, that a_is dinner hour, that is to say, at twelve o'clock, he was reminded for th_irst time by his appetite that his daughter was fretting rather too long.
  • He sent one of the under-turnkeys to call her; and, when the man came back t_ell him that he had called and sought her in vain, he resolved to go and cal_er himself.
  • He first went to her room, but, loud as he knocked, Rosa answered not.
  • The locksmith of the fortress was sent for; he opened the door, but Gryphus n_ore found Rosa than she had found the tulip.
  • At that very moment she entered Rotterdam.
  • Gryphus therefore had just as little chance of finding her in the kitchen a_n her room, and just as little in the garden as in the kitchen.
  • The reader may imagine the anger of the jailer when, after having mad_nquiries about the neighbourhood, he heard that his daughter had hired _orse, and, like an adventuress, set out on a journey without saying where sh_as going.
  • Gryphus again went up in his fury to Van Baerle, abused him, threatened him, knocked all the miserable furniture of his cell about, and promised him al_orts of misery, even starvation and flogging.
  • Cornelius, without even hearing what his jailer said, allowed himself to b_ll-treated, abused, and threatened, remaining all the while sullen, immovable, dead to every emotion and fear.
  • After having sought for Rosa in every direction, Gryphus looked out for Jacob, and, as he could not find him either, he began to suspect from that momen_hat Jacob had run away with her.
  • The damsel, meanwhile, after having stopped for two hours at Rotterdam, ha_tarted again on her journey. On that evening she slept at Delft, and on th_ollowing morning she reached Haarlem, four hours after Boxtel had arrive_here.
  • Rosa, first of all, caused herself to be led before Mynheer van Systens, th_resident of the Horticultural Society of Haarlem.
  • She found that worthy gentleman in a situation which, to do justice to ou_tory, we must not pass over in our description.
  • The President was drawing up a report to the committee of the society.
  • This report was written on large-sized paper, in the finest handwriting of th_resident.
  • Rosa was announced simply as Rosa Gryphus; but as her name, well as it migh_ound, was unknown to the President, she was refused admittance.
  • Rosa, however, was by no means abashed, having vowed in her heart, in pursuin_er cause, not to allow herself to be put down either by refusal, or abuse, o_ven brutality.
  • "Announce to the President," she said to the servant, "that I want to speak t_im about the black tulip."
  • These words seemed to be an "Open Sesame," for she soon found herself in th_ffice of the President, Van Systens, who gallantly rose from his chair t_eet her.
  • He was a spare little man, resembling the stem of a flower, his head formin_ts chalice, and his two limp arms representing the double leaf of the tulip; the resemblance was rendered complete by his waddling gait which made him eve_ore like that flower when it bends under a breeze.
  • "Well, miss," he said, "you are coming, I am told, about the affair of th_lack tulip."
  • To the President of the Horticultural Society the Tulipa nigra was a first- rate power, which, in its character as queen of the tulips, might sen_mbassadors.
  • "Yes, sir," answered Rosa; "I come at least to speak of it."
  • "Is it doing well, then?" asked Van Systens, with a smile of tende_eneration.
  • "Alas! sir, I don't know," said Rosa.
  • "How is that? could any misfortune have happened to it?"
  • "A very great one, sir; yet not to it, but to me."
  • "What?"
  • "It has been stolen from me."
  • "Stolen! the black tulip?"
  • "Yes, sir."
  • "Do you know the thief?"
  • "I have my suspicions, but I must not yet accuse any one."
  • "But the matter may very easily be ascertained."
  • "How is that?"
  • "As it has been stolen from you, the thief cannot be far off."
  • "Why not?"
  • "Because I have seen the black tulip only two hours ago."
  • "You have seen the black tulip!" cried Rosa, rushing up to Mynheer va_ystens.
  • "As I see you, miss."
  • "But where?"
  • "Well, with your master, of course."
  • "With my master?"
  • "Yes, are you not in the service of Master Isaac Boxtel?"
  • "I?"
  • "Yes, you."
  • "But for whom do you take me, sir?"
  • "And for whom do you take me?"
  • "I hope, sir, I take you for what you are, — that is to say, for the honorabl_ynheer van Systens, Burgomaster of Haarlem, and President of th_orticultural Society."
  • "And what is it you told me just now?"
  • "I told you, sir, that my tulip has been stolen."
  • "Then your tulip is that of Mynheer Boxtel. Well, my child, you expres_ourself very badly. The tulip has been stolen, not from you, but from Mynhee_oxtel."
  • "I repeat to you, sir, that I do not know who this Mynheer Boxtel is, and tha_ have now heard his name pronounced for the first time."
  • "You do not know who Mynheer Boxtel is, and you also had a black tulip?"
  • "But is there any other besides mine?" asked Rosa, trembling.
  • "Yes, — that of Mynheer Boxtel."
  • "How is it?"
  • "Black, of course."
  • "Without speck?"
  • "Without a single speck, or even point."
  • "And you have this tulip, — you have it deposited here?"
  • "No, but it will be, as it has to be exhibited before the committee previou_o the prize being awarded."
  • "Oh, sir!" cried Rosa, "this Boxtel — this Isaac Boxtel — who calls himsel_he owner of the black tulip —— "
  • "And who is its owner?"
  • "Is he not a very thin man?"
  • "Bald?"
  • "Yes."
  • "With sunken eyes?"
  • "I think he has."
  • "Restless, stooping, and bowlegged?"
  • "In truth, you draw Master Boxtel's portrait feature by feature."
  • "And the tulip, sir? Is it not in a pot of white and blue earthenware, wit_ellowish flowers in a basket on three sides?"
  • "Oh, as to that I am not quite sure; I looked more at the flower than at th_ot."
  • "Oh, sir! that's my tulip, which has been stolen from me. I came here t_eclaim it before you and from you."
  • "Oh! oh!" said Van Systens, looking at Rosa. "What! you are here to claim th_ulip of Master Boxtel? Well, I must say, you are cool enough."
  • "Honoured sir," a little put out by this apostrophe, "I do not say that I a_oming to claim the tulip of Master Boxtel, but to reclaim my own."
  • "Yours?"
  • "Yes, the one which I have myself planted and nursed."
  • "Well, then, go and find out Master Boxtel, at the White Swan Inn, and you ca_hen settle matters with him; as for me, considering that the cause seems t_e as difficult to judge as that which was brought before King Solomon, an_hat I do not pretend to be as wise as he was, I shall content myself wit_aking my report, establishing the existence of the black tulip, and orderin_he hundred thousand guilders to be paid to its grower. Good-bye, my child."
  • "Oh, sir, sir!" said Rosa, imploringly.
  • "Only, my child," continued Van Systens, "as you are young and pretty, and a_here may be still some good in you, I'll give you some good advice. B_rudent in this matter, for we have a court of justice and a prison here a_aarlem, and, moreover, we are exceedingly ticklish as far as the honour o_ur tulips is concerned. Go, my child, go, remember, Master Isaac Boxtel a_he White Swan Inn."
  • And Mynheer van Systens, taking up his fine pen, resumed his report, which ha_een interrupted by Rosa's visit.