Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 9 The Family Cell

  • It was about midnight when poor Van Baerle was locked up in the prison of th_uytenhof.
  • What Rosa foresaw had come to pass. On finding the cell of Cornelius de Wit_mpty, the wrath of the people ran very high, and had Gryphus fallen into th_ands of those madmen he would certainly have had to pay with his life for th_risoner.
  • But this fury had vented itself most fully on the two brothers when they wer_vertaken by the murderers, thanks to the precaution which William — the ma_f precautions — had taken in having the gates of the city closed.
  • A momentary lull had therefore set in whilst the prison was empty, and Ros_vailed herself of this favourable moment to come forth from her hiding place, which she also induced her father to leave.
  • The prison was therefore completely deserted. Why should people remain in th_ail whilst murder was going on at the Tol-Hek?
  • Gryphus came forth trembling behind the courageous Rosa. They went to clos_he great gate, at least as well as it would close, considering that it wa_alf demolished. It was easy to see that a hurricane of mighty fury had vente_tself upon it.
  • About four o'clock a return of the noise was heard, but of no threatenin_haracter to Gryphus and his daughter. The people were only dragging in th_wo corpses, which they came back to gibbet at the usual place of execution.
  • Rosa hid herself this time also, but only that she might not see the ghastl_pectacle.
  • At midnight, people again knocked at the gate of the jail, or rather at th_arricade which served in its stead: it was Cornelius van Baerle whom the_ere bringing.
  • When the jailer received this new inmate, and saw from the warrant the nam_nd station of his prisoner, he muttered with his turnkey smile, —
  • "Godson of Cornelius de Witt! Well, young man, we have the family cell here, and we will give it to you."
  • And quite enchanted with his joke, the ferocious Orangeman took his cresse_nd his keys to conduct Cornelius to the cell, which on that very mornin_ornelius de Witt had left to go into exile, or what in revolutionary times i_eant instead by those sublime philosophers who lay it down as an axiom o_igh policy, "It is the dead only who do not return."
  • On the way which the despairing florist had to traverse to reach that cell h_eard nothing but the barking of a dog, and saw nothing but the face of _oung girl.
  • The dog rushed forth from a niche in the wall, shaking his heavy chain, an_niffing all round Cornelius in order so much the better to recognise him i_ase he should be ordered to pounce upon him.
  • The young girl, whilst the prisoner was mounting the staircase, appeared a_he narrow door of her chamber, which opened on that very flight of steps; and, holding the lamp in her right hand, she at the same time lit up he_retty blooming face, surrounded by a profusion of rich wavy golden locks, whilst with her left she held her white night-dress closely over her breast, having been roused from her first slumber by the unexpected arrival of Va_aerle.
  • It would have made a fine picture, worthy of Rembrandt, the gloomy windin_tairs illuminated by the reddish glare of the cresset of Gryphus, with hi_cowling jailer's countenance at the top, the melancholy figure of Corneliu_ending over the banister to look down upon the sweet face of Rosa, standing, as it were, in the bright frame of the door of her chamber, with embarrasse_ien at being thus seen by a stranger.
  • And at the bottom, quite in the shade, where the details are absorbed in th_bscurity, the mastiff, with his eyes glistening like carbuncles, and shakin_is chain, on which the double light from the lamp of Rosa and the lantern o_ryphus threw a brilliant glitter.
  • The sublime master would, however, have been altogether unable to render th_orrow expressed in the face of Rosa, when she saw this pale, handsome youn_an slowly climbing the stairs, and thought of the full import of the words, which her father had just spoken, "You will have the family cell."
  • This vision lasted but a moment, — much less time than we have taken t_escribe it. Gryphus then proceeded on his way, Cornelius was forced to follo_im, and five minutes afterwards he entered his prison, of which it i_nnecessary to say more, as the reader is already acquainted with it.
  • Gryphus pointed with his finger to the bed on which the martyr had suffered s_uch, who on that day had rendered his soul to God. Then, taking up hi_resset, he quitted the cell.
  • Thus left alone, Cornelius threw himself on his bed, but he slept not, he kep_is eye fixed on the narrow window, barred with iron, which looked on th_uytenhof; and in this way saw from behind the trees that first pale beam o_ight which morning sheds on the earth as a white mantle.
  • Now and then during the night horses had galloped at a smart pace over th_uytenhof, the heavy tramp of the patrols had resounded from the pavement, an_he slow matches of the arquebuses, flaring in the east wind, had thrown up a_ntervals a sudden glare as far as to the panes of his window.
  • But when the rising sun began to gild the coping stones at the gable ends o_he houses, Cornelius, eager to know whether there was any living creatur_bout him, approached the window, and cast a sad look round the circular yar_efore him
  • At the end of the yard a dark mass, tinted with a dingy blue by the mornin_awn, rose before him, its dark outlines standing out in contrast to th_ouses already illuminated by the pale light of early morning.
  • Cornelius recognised the gibbet.
  • On it were suspended two shapeless trunks, which indeed were no more tha_leeding skeletons.
  • The good people of the Hague had chopped off the flesh of its victims, bu_aithfully carried the remainder to the gibbet, to have a pretext for a doubl_nscription written on a huge placard, on which Cornelius; with the keen sigh_f a young man of twenty-eight, was able to read the following lines, daube_y the coarse brush of a sign-painter: —
  • "Here are hanging the great rogue of the name of John de Witt, and the littl_ogue Cornelius de Witt, his brother, two enemies of the people, but grea_riends of the king of France."
  • Cornelius uttered a cry of horror, and in the agony of his frantic terro_nocked with his hands and feet at the door so violently and continuously, that Gryphus, with his huge bunch of keys in his hand, ran furiously up.
  • The jailer opened the door, with terrible imprecations against the prisone_ho disturbed him at an hour which Master Gryphus was not accustomed to b_roused.
  • "Well, now, by my soul, he is mad, this new De Witt," he cried, "but all thos_e Witts have the devil in them."
  • "Master, master," cried Cornelius, seizing the jailer by the arm and draggin_im towards the window, — "master, what have I read down there?"
  • "Where down there?"
  • "On that placard."
  • And, trembling, pale, and gasping for breath, he pointed to the gibbet at th_ther side of the yard, with the cynical inscription surmounting it.
  • Gryphus broke out into a laugh.
  • "Eh! eh!" he answered, "so, you have read it. Well, my good sir, that's wha_eople will get for corresponding with the enemies of his Highness the Princ_f Orange."
  • "The brothers De Witt are murdered!" Cornelius muttered, with the cold swea_n his brow, and sank on his bed, his arms hanging by his side, and his eye_losed.
  • "The brothers De Witt have been judged by the people," said Gryphus; "you cal_hat murdered, do you? well, I call it executed."
  • And seeing that the prisoner was not only quiet, but entirely prostrate an_enseless, he rushed from the cell, violently slamming the door, and noisil_rawing the bolts.
  • Recovering his consciousness, Cornelius found himself alone, and recognise_he room where he was, — "the family cell," as Gryphus had called it, — as th_atal passage leading to ignominious death.
  • And as he was a philosopher, and, more than that, as he was a Christian, h_egan to pray for the soul of his godfather, then for that of the Gran_ensionary, and at last submitted with resignation to all the sufferings whic_od might ordain for him.
  • Then turning again to the concerns of earth, and having satisfied himself tha_e was alone in his dungeon, he drew from his breast the three bulbs of th_lack tulip, and concealed them behind a block of stone, on which th_raditional water-jug of the prison was standing, in the darkest corner of hi_ell.
  • Useless labour of so many years! such sweet hopes crushed; his discovery was, after all, to lead to naught, just as his own career was to be cut short.
  • Here, in his prison, there was not a trace of vegetation, not an atom of soil, not a ray of sunshine.
  • At this thought Cornelius fell into a gloomy despair, from which he was onl_roused by an extraordinary circumstance.
  • What was this circumstance?
  • We shall inform the reader in our next chapter.