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Chapter 8 An Invasion

  • The incident just related was, as the reader has guessed before this, th_iabolical work of Mynheer Isaac Boxtel.
  • It will be remembered that, with the help of his telescope, not even the leas_etail of the private meeting between Cornelius de Witt and Van Baerle ha_scaped him. He had, indeed, heard nothing, but he had seen everything, an_ad rightly concluded that the papers intrusted by the Warden to the Docto_ust have been of great importance, as he saw Van Baerle so carefull_ecreting the parcel in the drawer where he used to keep his most preciou_ulbs.
  • The upshot of all this was that when Boxtel, who watched the course o_olitical events much more attentively than his neighbour Cornelius was use_o do, heard the news of the brothers De Witt being arrested on a charge o_igh treason against the States, he thought within his heart that very likel_e needed only to say one word, and the godson would be arrested as well a_he godfather.
  • Yet, full of happiness as was Boxtel's heart at the chance, he at first shran_ith horror from the idea of informing against a man whom this informatio_ight lead to the scaffold.
  • But there is this terrible thing in evil thoughts, that evil minds soon gro_amiliar with them.
  • Besides this, Mynheer Isaac Boxtel encouraged himself with the followin_ophism: —
  • "Cornelius de Witt is a bad citizen, as he is charged with high treason, an_rrested.
  • "I, on the contrary, am a good citizen, as I am not charged with anything i_he world, as I am as free as the air of heaven."
  • "If, therefore, Cornelius de Witt is a bad citizen, — of which there can be n_oubt, as he is charged with high treason, and arrested, — his accomplice, Cornelius van Baerle, is no less a bad citizen than himself.
  • "And, as I am a good citizen, and as it is the duty of every good citizen t_nform against the bad ones, it is my duty to inform against Cornelius va_aerle."
  • Specious as this mode of reasoning might sound, it would not perhaps hav_aken so complete a hold of Boxtel, nor would he perhaps have yielded to th_ere desire of vengeance which was gnawing at his heart, had not the demon o_nvy been joined with that of cupidity.
  • Boxtel was quite aware of the progress which Van Baerle had made toward_roducing the grand black tulip.
  • Dr. Cornelius, notwithstanding all his modesty, had not been able to hide fro_is most intimate friends that he was all but certain to win, in the year o_race 1673, the prize of a hundred thousand guilders offered by th_orticultural Society of Haarlem.
  • It was just this certainty of Cornelius van Baerle that caused the fever whic_aged in the heart of Isaac Boxtel.
  • If Cornelius should be arrested there would necessarily be a great upset i_is house, and during the night after his arrest no one would think of keepin_atch over the tulips in his garden.
  • Now in that night Boxtel would climb over the wall and, as he knew th_osition of the bulb which was to produce the grand black tulip, he woul_ilch it; and instead of flowering for Cornelius, it would flower for him, Isaac; he also, instead of Van Baerle, would have the prize of a hundre_housand guilders, not to speak of the sublime honour of calling the ne_lower Tulipa nigra Boxtellensis, — a result which would satisfy not only hi_engeance, but also his cupidity and his ambition.
  • Awake, he thought of nothing but the grand black tulip; asleep, he dreamed o_t.
  • At last, on the 19th of August, about two o'clock in the afternoon, th_emptation grew so strong, that Mynheer Isaac was no longer able to resist it.
  • Accordingly, he wrote an anonymous information, the minute exactness of whic_ade up for its want of authenticity, and posted his letter.
  • Never did a venomous paper, slipped into the jaws of the bronze lions a_enice, produce a more prompt and terrible effect.
  • On the same evening the letter reached the principal magistrate, who without _oment's delay convoked his colleagues early for the next morning. On th_ollowing morning, therefore, they assembled, and decided on Van Baerle'_rrest, placing the order for its execution in the hands of Master va_pennen, who, as we have seen, performed his duty like a true Hollander, an_ho arrested the Doctor at the very hour when the Orange party at the Hagu_ere roasting the bleeding shreds of flesh torn from the corpses of Corneliu_nd John de Witt.
  • But, whether from a feeling of shame or from craven weakness, Isaac Boxtel di_ot venture that day to point his telescope either at the garden, or at th_aboratory, or at the dry-room.
  • He knew too well what was about to happen in the house of the poor doctor t_eel any desire to look into it. He did not even get up when his only servant — who envied the lot of the servants of Cornelius just as bitterly as Boxte_id that of their master — entered his bedroom. He said to the man, —
  • "I shall not get up to-day, I am ill."
  • About nine o'clock he heard a great noise in the street which made hi_remble, at this moment he was paler than a real invalid, and shook mor_iolently than a man in the height of fever.
  • His servant entered the room; Boxtel hid himself under the counterpane.
  • "Oh, sir!" cried the servant, not without some inkling that, whilst deplorin_he mishap which had befallen Van Baerle, he was announcing agreeable news t_is master, — "oh, sir! you do not know, then, what is happening at thi_oment?"
  • "How can I know it?" answered Boxtel, with an almost unintelligible voice.
  • "Well, Mynheer Boxtel, at this moment your neighbour Cornelius van Baerle i_rrested for high treason."
  • "Nonsense!" Boxtel muttered, with a faltering voice; "the thing i_mpossible."
  • "Faith, sir, at any rate that's what people say; and, besides, I have see_udge van Spennen with the archers entering the house."
  • "Well, if you have seen it with your own eyes, that's a different cas_ltogether."
  • "At all events," said the servant, "I shall go and inquire once more. Be yo_uiet, sir, I shall let you know all about it."
  • Boxtel contented himself with signifying his approval of the zeal of hi_ervant by dumb show.
  • The man went out, and returned in half an hour.
  • "Oh, sir, all that I told you is indeed quite true."
  • "How so?"
  • "Mynheer van Baerle is arrested, and has been put into a carriage, and the_re driving him to the Hague."
  • "To the Hague!"
  • "Yes, to the Hague, and if what people say is true, it won't do him muc_ood."
  • "And what do they say?" Boxtel asked.
  • "Faith, sir, they say — but it is not quite sure — that by this hour th_urghers must be murdering Mynheer Cornelius and Mynheer John de Witt."
  • "Oh," muttered, or rather growled Boxtel, closing his eyes from the dreadfu_icture which presented itself to his imagination.
  • "Why, to be sure," said the servant to himself, whilst leaving the room,
  • "Mynheer Isaac Boxtel must be very sick not to have jumped from his bed o_earing such good news."
  • And, in reality, Isaac Boxtel was very sick, like a man who has murdere_nother.
  • But he had murdered his man with a double object; the first was attained, th_econd was still to be attained.
  • Night closed in. It was the night which Boxtel had looked forward to.
  • As soon as it was dark he got up.
  • He then climbed into his sycamore.
  • He had calculated correctly; no one thought of keeping watch over the garden; the house and the servants were all in the utmost confusion.
  • He heard the clock strike — ten, eleven, twelve.
  • At midnight, with a beating heart, trembling hands, and a livid countenance, he descended from the tree, took a ladder, leaned it against the wall, mounte_t to the last step but one, and listened.
  • All was perfectly quiet, not a sound broke the silence of the night; on_olitary light, that of the housekeeper, was burning in the house.
  • This silence and this darkness emboldened Boxtel; he got astride the wall, stopped for an instant, and, after having ascertained that there was nothin_o fear, he put his ladder from his own garden into that of Cornelius, an_escended.
  • Then, knowing to an inch where the bulbs which were to produce the black tuli_ere planted, he ran towards the spot, following, however, the gravelled walk_n order not to be betrayed by his footprints, and, on arriving at the precis_pot, he proceeded, with the eagerness of a tiger, to plunge his hand into th_oft ground.
  • He found nothing, and thought he was mistaken.
  • In the meanwhile, the cold sweat stood on his brow.
  • He felt about close by it, — nothing.
  • He felt about on the right, and on the left, — nothing.
  • He felt about in front and at the back, — nothing.
  • He was nearly mad, when at last he satisfied himself that on that very mornin_he earth had been disturbed.
  • In fact, whilst Boxtel was lying in bed, Cornelius had gone down to hi_arden, had taken up the mother bulb, and, as we have seen, divided it int_hree.
  • Boxtel could not bring himself to leave the place. He dug up with his hand_ore than ten square feet of ground.
  • At last no doubt remained of his misfortune. Mad with rage, he returned to hi_adder, mounted the wall, drew up the ladder, flung it into his own garden, and jumped after it.
  • All at once, a last ray of hope presented itself to his mind: the seedlin_ulbs might be in the dry-room; it was therefore only requisite to make hi_ntry there as he had done into the garden.
  • There he would find them, and, moreover, it was not at all difficult, as th_ashes of the dry-room might be raised like those of a greenhouse. Corneliu_ad opened them on that morning, and no one had thought of closing them again.
  • Everything, therefore, depended upon whether he could procure a ladder o_ufficient length, — one of twenty-five feet instead of ten.
  • Boxtel had noticed in the street where he lived a house which was bein_epaired, and against which a very tall ladder was placed.
  • This ladder would do admirably, unless the workmen had taken it away.
  • He ran to the house: the ladder was there. Boxtel took it, carried it wit_reat exertion to his garden, and with even greater difficulty raised i_gainst the wall of Van Baerle's house, where it just reached to the window.
  • Boxtel put a lighted dark lantern into his pocket, mounted the ladder, an_lipped into the dry-room.
  • On reaching this sanctuary of the florist he stopped, supporting himsel_gainst the table; his legs failed him, his heart beat as if it would chok_im. Here it was even worse than in the garden; there Boxtel was only _respasser, here he was a thief.
  • However, he took courage again: he had not gone so far to turn back with empt_ands.
  • But in vain did he search the whole room, open and shut all the drawers, eve_hat privileged one where the parcel which had been so fatal to Cornelius ha_een deposited; he found ticketed, as in a botanical garden, the "Jane," the
  • "John de Witt," the hazel-nut, and the roasted-coffee coloured tulip; but o_he black tulip, or rather the seedling bulbs within which it was stil_leeping, not a trace was found.
  • And yet, on looking over the register of seeds and bulbs, which Van Baerl_ept in duplicate, if possible even with greater exactitude and care than th_irst commercial houses of Amsterdam their ledgers, Boxtel read these lines: —
  • "To-day, 20th of August, 1672, I have taken up the mother bulb of the gran_lack tulip, which I have divided into three perfect suckers."
  • "Oh these bulbs, these bulbs!" howled Boxtel, turning over everything in th_ry-room, "where could he have concealed them?"
  • Then, suddenly striking his forehead in his frenzy, he called out, "Oh wretc_hat I am! Oh thrice fool Boxtel! Would any one be separated from his bulbs?
  • Would any one leave them at Dort, when one goes to the Hague? Could one liv_ar from one's bulbs, when they enclose the grand black tulip? He had time t_et hold of them, the scoundrel, he has them about him, he has taken them t_he Hague!"
  • It was like a flash of lightning which showed to Boxtel the abyss of _selessly committed crime.
  • Boxtel sank quite paralyzed on that very table, and on that very spot where, some hours before, the unfortunate Van Baerle had so leisurely, and with suc_ntense delight, contemplated his darling bulbs.
  • "Well, then, after all," said the envious Boxtel, — raising his livid fac_rom his hands in which it had been buried — "if he has them, he can keep the_nly as long as he lives, and —— "
  • The rest of this detestable thought was expressed by a hideous smile.
  • "The bulbs are at the Hague," he said, "therefore, I can no longer live a_ort: away, then, for them, to the Hague! to the Hague!"
  • And Boxtel, without taking any notice of the treasures about him, so entirel_ere his thoughts absorbed by another inestimable treasure, let himself out b_he window, glided down the ladder, carried it back to the place whence he ha_aken it, and, like a beast of prey, returned growling to his house.