Eternity – Part 02

Later that evening.

The sun was setting, and the vast garden of St. Marguerite Academy was bathed in rosy dusk. The lawn, iron benches, and cozy gazebos were filled with students, spending their after-school hours however they wanted.

A boy wearing a serious look was walking briskly along the white gravel path from the direction of St. Marguerite’s Grand Library. It was Kazuya. He was carrying a thick book under his arm and holding a bunch of purple flowers in his other hand. He weaved through the chattering students until he finally arrived at the flowerbed maze.

Among the students, a carefree, blooming girl with short blonde hair and blue eyes stretched herself when she noticed Kazuya. It was Avril Bradley. A friend called out to her, and she turned her head to respond, then as if pulled by an invisible thread, she looked again toward Kazuya’s direction. But he had already been sucked into the maze.

Avril’s sky-blue eyes flickered. “He’s gone!”

“Hmm? What’s wrong?” her friend asked.

Avril shook her head several times. Frowning, she flapped her arms around.

“He was holding flowers,” she mumbled.

The wind blew, rustling the leaves on the trees.

Avril pondered for a while, curiously watching the direction in which Kazuya had disappeared to.

“Victorique, are you there?”

There was a grunt, and the window of the candy house opened soundlessly.

Victorique was sitting on an emerald-green, cabriole-legged couch by the window, still and quiet as a caged rabbit. On the couch was the petite Victorique, a ruffled dress, and a few confectioneries, including macarons, chocolates, and pure-white meringues.

She rested her pale little chin on the window sill and looked at Kazuya crossly.

“Wh-What is it?” Kazuya asked.

“I’m bored. I’m dying. I might perish in five seconds.”

“Boredom doesn’t kill. Anyway, here you go.” Wearing an earnest look, he presented the bouquet of purple flowers. “F-Flowers.”

Victorique nodded. “Indeed, they are flowers.”


It was a bunch of purplish tulips that bloomed in the conservatory. The flowers brought a burst of color to Victorique’s house, which was furnished with small cabriole-legged table and chairs, a dresser, and a lovely carpet. The floor was filled with piles of books. Victorique took the bouquet indifferently and held it silently before her chest.

“What is this?” She sniffed the flowers. “Hmm!”

Holding the flowers tight, she turned her back. Gravely, Kazuya opened the book he was holding under his arm.

He stammered as he began reading. “Uh, apparently purple tulips are, uh… the king of tulips, and they’re called Viceroy tulips.”

“Uh huh.”

Relieved to hear a response, Kazuya continued.

“Viceroys were sold for high prices during the tulip mania in the Netherlands a long time ago. But nowadays there are a lot of them in the library’s conservatory.”

“Uh huh.”

“The Dutch went crazy for this pretty purple flower in the 17th century, about three hundred years ago.”

“Uh huh.”

Kazuya glanced at Victorique. She was still sniffing the flowers delightfully.

“Most of the deals involving the flower were done at taverns over a drink,” he went on. “The owner of one of those taverns, the Golden Grape, left a diary that was turned into a book. I’m going to read it. There’s a story about a couple of mysterious lovers.”

“Uh huh.”

Kazuya looked at Victorique. Her small ears twitched. She’s listening, he thought.

“All right. Here I go.” Straightening his back, Kazuya resumed. “The Golden Grape was a bar established by my father’s father, who is now resting in a cemetery in the suburbs of Amsterdam, around fifty years ago, in 1590.”

The wind blew, stirring the purple petals in Victorique’s hands.

The Golden Grape was a bar established by my father’s father, who is now resting in a cemetery in the suburbs of Amsterdam, around fifty years ago, in 1590. I don’t really know much about what happened back then, but it is no doubt an old establishment that had witnessed a part of the history of Amsterdam, a port city in the Netherlands.

I know nothing about the past, but I’ve seen and heard about a lot of interesting incidents over the past ten years or so since I became the proprietor. I’m thinking of writing them down after business hours, when the noisy, drunken customers have staggered home, and I’m all alone at the Golden Grape after cleaning up. I’m an educated man for a tavern owner. I can read and write. As to what I’m going to do after I’m done writing everything down, I’ll probably hand the place over to my son. He’s just a little snot-nosed kid right now, but when he grows up, he’ll take over this tavern. And just like his father, his grandfather, and his grandfather’s father, he’ll be a witness to the joys and sorrows of the people of this city. I’m sure of it. I wanted to know about my own father’s and my grandfather’s experiences too, so I’m going to record what I had witnessed for my son.

The most interesting event of the last ten years in the Netherlands was, without doubt, the tulip trade. What I’m about to share is the story of a pair of lovers who danced in the shadows of the tulip mania.

To this day, I still don’t know exactly what it was about. We townspeople don’t really understand it, but one of our regular customers, a scholar, told me about it when he was a little drunk. It started with the Dutch Revolt, which began about 70 years ago. In the aftermath of the war, Amsterdam, once a rural fisherman’s town, suddenly became a bustling port city that conducted trade with various countries. The Netherlands itself began profiting off the trade with the East, which had been monopolized by Spain. In the next seventy years, the people’s lifestyle gradually went from modest to luxurious.

The Netherlands entered its golden age by bringing spices and sugar from its colonies in the east and selling them in Europe. The economic boom continued, with clothing and food becoming more and more extravagant. And then what was next? Housing. Building luxurious houses with fine architecture became prevalent. People were thrilled, building houses like it was a competition and then bragging about it. With houses done, what came next?

Gardens. People were ecstatic about creating gardens. They competed with each other to create gardens so beautiful that their houses didn’t look like they belonged to laymen.

And then what came next?

Flowers. Have you figured it out yet? We Dutch people wanted a rare and beautiful flower to plant in our garden and brag about.

And one rare flower was the tulip.

A fantastical flower with a never-before-seen shape that bloomed in the gardens of a rear palace in a foreign land in the East. First it attracted the rich people who were enthusiastic about building mansions and gardens, and then the craze spread to us, the common people who couldn’t even afford to buy such things. It only lasted about ten years, from the 1620s to the 1630s. It might sound like the craze didn’t last long, but that’s just how it is with crazes. Anyway, the tulip bulb, the mysterious flower of the East, became an impossible dream for us Dutch during those ten years.

This craze gradually spread from the luxurious trading venues that the rich frequented to the places where ordinary people spent their days, and finally to the Golden Grape, where I manage. It was the year 1635, just before the tulip bubble burst.

A beautiful lady appearead.

Her name was Bluett Marsh, the most beautiful woman in Amsterdam, who got in trouble because of tulips.

Are you familiar with the term windhandel?

It’s what the sailors that frequent this port city call the challenge of steering a ship headwind. In the Netherlands, they used the same term to refer to the tulip trade. A fitting term, to be sure, as it was like making an agreement with the wind.

At first, people were buying and selling actual bulbs for an agreed price, but the bubble expanded rapidly for anyone to keep up. Besides, for those who just wanted to make money, the flowers themselves didn’t really matter. So they started trading bulbs that they had yet to obtain. As they resold contracts to others at higher prices, the price rapidly rose. People started borrowing money from the bank using these imaginary bulbs as collateral, saying, ‘When the bulbs arrive, I’ll be rich, then I can pay the money back.’ And the common people, dreaming of striking it rich, chose the neighborhood taverns as places to do business, where they could transact with anyone.

The Golden Grape was one of them. Every night, it was crowded with people trading tulips. There was a popular method of selling called in het ootje, in which you wrote the price you wanted to sell tulips for on the letter O drawn on a slate and went around showing it. Men, with small slates in their hands, would get into a frenzy every night.

Around that time, a father and daughter moved to Amsterdam. Mr. Marsh and his daughter apparently made huge profits from trade with the East, which was not so uncommon in the Netherlands at that time. The reason why they became famous was because the daughter, an eighteen-year-old girl named Bluett, had beautiful features that none had ever seen before.

I’d never heard about her mother, so I’m guessing she had the blood of an Eastern woman in her. Glossy dark skin, black eyes, and dark-gold hair. She had a chiseled, exotic face. I remember when men all over Amsterdam used to hang around Mr. Marsh’s house, chasing after Bluett. It was a kind of frenzy, in a way.

One of them was a young, penniless orphan named Harry Harris. He was around sixteen or seventeen years old, and had been working here at the Golden Grape for about six months. I don’t know what he did before that. He looked a bit like Bluett. Not that he was beautiful, but he had dark skin, and had the same look in his eyes. He might have had the same Eastern blood in him and was hiding it. I never asked him, though.

Harry was completely into Bluett. He wasn’t exactly a hard worker, so I always yelled at him, but he had become more and more useless. Apparently, he was walking in the park when it started to rain and he let Bluett under his umbrella. On the way to Mr. Marsh’s house, they talked for a while, and he took a liking to her. Bluett was on his mind all day and all night. But he had no chance with her. As to why…


Read here for some info about the Netherland’s tulip mania.

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