THE SULTANA TULIPIA.
VAN CLIPP’S DREAM
The ship of Mynheer Van Clipp, laden with a
valuable cargo of sugar, coffee, indigo, and spices of every description, was
sailing at the rate of twelve knots an hour.
Every thing promised a fortunate voyage. The
worthy owner, sitting at the prow, was thinking of the time when he should again
see his little mansion at Haerlem, so neat and bright; his neatly raked garden;
and above all, his darling tulips.
Mynheer Van Clipp had shed bitter tears when
he found it necessary to leave these flowers of his affections. The death of a
brother to whom he as sole heir, had called him to Java. Having settled the
estate, he was returning to his country, accompanied by his daughter, the
incomparable Tulipia. It was the father’s choice, that the most beautiful of
girls should bear the name of the most beautiful of flowers. And she fully
justified the designation. For, though her fresh and brilliant complexion, and
her dignified gait, attracted admiration, she was deficient in that vivacity of
disposition, and warmth of soul, and activity of person, which constitute the
most pleasing charm of youth. The tulip is without fragrance.
Van Clipp, as he smoked away, called up in
imagination the pleasures which awaited him in Holland. First, there were
improvements to be made in his greenhouse; and his collection of tulips must be
enlarged. For this no sacrifice would seem great. Then, turning to account his
leisure hours, he put the finishing stroke to his great work on tulips, which
was to contain the history of this flower from the creation of the world down to
The subject was copious, and Van Clipp had
already executed one portion of the work. He explained the method of imparting
to the tulip all the prismatic hues, from the brightest to the most delicate
tint. There was the culture of the spotted – the speckled – those which are
striped like the zebra – and of those which seem covered with flames, or with
embroidery. Then were described the tulip of twenty shades – the jasper tulip,
the variegated, the paragon – and the tulip covered with small eyes.
Pursuing his narrative, Van Clipp recounted
the strong measures adopted by the states-general to prevent the Dutch, under
penalty of confiscation and exile, from dealing in tulips.
It is true that the passion for tulips had
been carried to a foolish extreme. All the money in the country was absorbed in
flower-pots. One tulip – the viceroy – had been sold for thirty-six sacks of
wheat, seventy-two sacks of rice, four fat oxen, twelve sheep, eight swine, two
hogsheads of wine, four casks of beer, two tons of salted butter, one hundred
pounds of cheese, and a large silver vase. Ten tulip-bulbs had produced at
public auction, twenty-four thousand francs. An amateur once offered twelve
acres of land for a single small bulb. A peasant having found on his master’s
desk several tulip-bulbs, cut them up for a salad, supposing them to be common
onions. This salad was worth a hundred thousand francs.
He described the influence of the tulip over
mankind in general, and over the Turks in particular – a nation which has had
the good taste to imitate, in their head-dresses, the form of this flower.
One whole chapter was devoted to the
description of the tulip festival, which every year, at the opening of spring,
is celebrated with great magnificence in the seraglio of the grand seignior. The
work was written entirely in Latin, as becomes a work so important and
While her father was thus dreaming of future
joys, the fair Tulipia was asleep in her hammock.
Van Clipp was about lighting his second pipe,
when a loud report was heard, and a cannon-ball lodged in one of the portholes.
“What does that mean?” cried Van Clipp.
“It means,” replied the captain, “that we are
attacked by a Barbary pirate.”
“We must defend ourselves.”
“With what? With this spy-glass?”
A second cannon was fired, and the ball cut in
two the topmast.
The captain ordered the flag to be struck.
In one hour from that time Van Clipp, his
daughter the beautiful Tulipia, his sugar, his coffee, his indigo, and his
spices, had all gone on board the corsair. A month later, the worthy Dutchman
was digging the garden of an old Turk, who set him to raising cabbages and
turnips instead of tulips. His daughter was kept for the sultan’s harem.
Section 1 of 4