The Blossom and the Fruit
A True Story of a Black Magician
by Mabel Collins
”The Prettiest Woman in Warsaw.” ”The Idyll of The White Lotus,”
”Through The Gates of Gold,” Etc., Etc.
CHAPTER 11 & 12
[Lucifer, Vol I. London, Feb 15th, 1888, No 6.]
© 2004 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet
IT was the day of the Princess Fleta's wedding and the whole city was en fête.
Hilary Estanol paced the streets wildly, like a creature distracted. He had never seen her face since the day he returned from the secret monastery. He could nnot trust himself to go near her. He felt that the savage in him must kill, must destroy, if too much provocation were given him.
He held this savage in check as well as he could. He would not trust himself under the same roof with the woman he loved as he loved nothing else in life, and who had given him her love while she gave herself to another man. Herself! How much that meant Hilary seemed only now to know, now that he heard her marriage bells ringing, now that she was absolutely given. Yes, she had given herself away to another man. Was it possible? Hilary stood still now and again in the midst of the crowded street trying to remember the words she had said to him in that wood in the early morn when she had accepted his love. What had she taken from him then? He had never been the same since. His heart lay cold, and chill, and dull within him save when her smile or its memory woke him to life and joy. Were these gone for ever? Impossible. He was still young - a mere boy. She could not have stolen so much from him! No - he had the first right - he would be her lover still and always, to whoever else she gave herself in name. This was the point of thought to which Hilary perpetually returned. undoubtedly she was his, and he would claim her. But obscured and excited as his mind was he had sufficient intelligence to know that his must be a secret claim even though it stood before all others. he could not go and claim her to the altar, for she had not given him any right to. What she had said was, ”Take from me what you can.” Well, he could not make her his wife. He could not marry a royal Princess. She was not of his class. This being so, what could he hope for? Nothing - and yet he had her love - yes, the last kind touch of her hand, the last sweet smile on her lips, were still with him, and drove his blood rioting through his veins.
At last the procession is coming - the soldiers have already cleared that way and with their horses keep back the crowd. Hilary stands now, still a carven figure, watching only for one face. He sees it suddenly - ah! so beautiful, so supremely beautiful, so mysterious - and everything in Heaven and earth becomes invisible, non-existent, save that one dear face. A voice rang out on the air, clear, shrill, above all other voices.
”Fleta! Fleta! My love! my love!”
What a cry! It penetrated to Fleta's ears; it reached the ears of her bridegroom.”
In the church, amid the pomp and ceremony, and the drowd of great people, Otto did a thing which made those near him stare. He went to meet his bride and touched her hand.
”Fleta”, he said, ”that voice was the voice of one who loves you. What answer do you make to it?”
Fleta put her hand in his.
”That is my answer”, she said.
And so they stepped up the broad low steps to the altar. None heard what had been said except the king.
Fleta's father was strangely unlike herself. He was a rugged, morose, sombre man, ill-disposed towards all humanity, as it would seem, save those few who held the key to his nature. Of these, his daughter was one; some said she was the only one. Others said her power lay in the fact that she was not his daughter, but a child of other parents altogether than those reputed to be hers; and that a State secret was involved in the mystery of her birth.
At all events, it was seldom indeed that the king interfered with Fleta. But he did so now, at this moment, with all the eyes of the Court upon them.
He spoke low into her ear, he stood beside her.
”Fleta”, he said, ”is this marriage right?”
Fleta turned on him a face so full of torture, of deathly pain, that he utterred an ejaculation of horror.
”Say no word, my father”, she said, ”it is right.”
And then she turned her head again, and fixed her glorious eyes on Otto.
What a strangely beautiful bride she was! She was dressed with extraordinary simplicity; her robe ahd been arranged by her own hands in long, soft lines that fell from her neck to her feet, and a long train lay on the ground behind her, but it was undecked by any lace or flowers. No flowers were in her hair, no jewels on her neck. never had a princess been derssed so simply, a princess who was to be a queen. The Court ladies stared in amazement. But they knew well that there was a grace so supreme, a dignity so lofty, in this royal girl, that however simple her dress she outshone them all, and would outshine any woman who stood beside her.
No one heard any of what passed between the three chief actors in this scene; yet everyone was aware that there was something unusual in it. There was an atmosphere of mystery, of excitement, of strangness. And yet what else would be possible where the Princess Fleta was concerned? In her father's Court she was looked upon as a wild, capricious, imperious creature whose will none could resist. None would have wondered had they believed her carriage to have passed over the body of an accepted lover, now thrown aside and discarded. So did these people interpret the character of Fleta. Otto knew this, felt it, understood it; knew that those creatures of intrigue and pleasure would have thought her far less worthy had they judged her character more nearly as he did. To him she was pure, stainless, unattainable; virgin in soul and thought. This he said to her when, on leaving the cathedral, they entered a carriage together and alone. They had together passed through crowds of congratulators, nobles, great ladies, diplomats from different parts of Europe. They had bowed and smiled, and answered courteously the words addressed to them. And yet how far away were their thoughts all the while! They neither of them knew who they had met, who they had spoken to. All was lost in one absorbing thought. But it was not the same thought. No, indeed, their minds were separated widely as the poles.
Fleta was filled with the sense of a great purpose. This marriage was but the first step in a giant programme. Her thoughts had flown now from this first step and were dwelling on the end, the fulfilment; as an artist when he draws his first sketch sees in his own mind the completed picture.
Otto had but one overwhelming thought; a very simple one, expressed instantly, in the first words he uttered when they were alone:
”Fleta, you did not fancy that I doubted you? I never meant that! And yet it seemed as if there was reproach in your eyes! No, Fleta, never that. But the cry was so terrible - it cut my heart. You did not fancy I meant any doubt? - assure me, Fleta!”
”No, I did not”, replied Fleta quietly. ”You know whose voice it was.”
”No - it was unrecognisable - it was nothing but a cry of torture.”
”Ah! but I knew it”, said Fleta. ”It was Hilary Estanol who cried out my name.”
”He said 'Fleta, my love, my love'”, added Otto. ”Is he that?”
”Yes”, said Fleta unmoved, indeed strangely calm. ”He is. More, Otto; he has loved me long centuries ago, when this world wore a different face. When the very surface of the earth was savage and untaught so were we. And then we enacted this same scene. Yes Alan, we three enacted it before, without this pomp, but with the natural splendour of savage beauty and undimmed skies. Otto, I sinned then I expiated my sin. Again and again have I expiated it. Again and again has Nature punished me for my offence against her. Now at last I know more, I see more, I understand more. the sin remains. I desired to take, to have for myself, to be a conqueror. I conquered - I have conquered since! how often! That has been my expiation: satiety. But now I will no longer enjoy. I will stand on that error, that folly, and win from it strength which shall lift me from this wretched little theatre where we play the same dramas for ever through the fond weariness of recurring lives.”
Otto had drawn back from her, and gazed intently upon her as she spoke, passion and vehemence gradually entering her low voice. As she ceased he passed his hand over his forehead.
”Fleta”, he said, ”is this some spell of yours upon me? While you spoke I saw your face change, and become the face of one familiar to me, but far, far back! I smelled the intense rich scent of innumerable fruit blossoms - Fleta, tell me, are you dreaming or speaking fables, or is this thing true? Have I lived for you before, loved you, served you, ages back, when the world was young?”
”Yes”, said Fleta.
”Ah!” cried Otto suddenly, ”I feel it - there is blood on you - blood on your hand!”
Fleta raised her beautiful hand, and looked at it with an infinite sadness on her face.
”It is so”, she answered. ”There is blood on it, and there will be, until I have got beyond the reign of blood and of death. You held me down then, Otto; you triumphed by brute force, not knowing that in me lay a power undreamed of by you - a vital, stirring will. I could have crushed you. But already I had used my will once, and found the bitter, unintelligible suffering it produced. I determined to try and understand Nature before I again used my power. So I submitted to your tyranny; you learned to love it, and through many lives have learned to love it more. It has brought you a crown at last, and a little army of soldiers to defend it for you, and half-a-dozen crafty old diplomats who want you to keep it, and who think they can make you do just as their respective monarchs wish. Move your puppets, Otto. No such kingdom satisfies me. I mean to win my own crown. I will be a queen of souls not of bodies; a queen in reality, not in name.”
She seemed to wrap herself in an impenetrable veil of scorn as she ceased speaking and leaned back in the carriage.
Some great emotion was stirring Otto through and through, At last he spoke; and the man seemed changed - a different being. From under the gentle manner, the docile, ready air, came struggling up the fierce spirit of opposition.
”You despise the crown you married me for? Is that so? Well, I will teach you to respect it.”
A smile dawned on Fleta's clouded face and then was gone again in a moment. This was all the answer she vouchsafed to the kingly threat. Otto turned and looked at her steadily.
”A magnificent creature”, he said, ”beautiful, and with a brain of steel, and perhaps for all I know, a heart like it. You won a great deal from me, Fleta, a little while since. Did I not submit to the masquerading of your mysterious Order? Did I not trust my life to those treacherous monks of yours, submit to be flindfolded and led into their haunt by secret ways. For what end? Ivan told me of aspirations, of ideas, of thoughts, which only sickened my soul and filled me with shame and despair. For I am a believer in order, in moral rule, in the government of the world in accordance with the principles of religion. I told you I was willing to become a member of the order; yes, because my nature is in sympathy with its avowed tenets. But its secret doctrines as I have heard them from you, as I have heard them from the man you call your master, are to me detestable. And it is for the carrying out of this unholy theory or doctrine that you propose to surrender your life? No, Fleta; you are now my queen.”
”Yes”, said Fleta. ”I am now your queen. I know that. I have chosen the lot willingly. You need not again tell me that I have the crown I purposed to obtain.”
At this moment they arrived at the palace. There was yet a weary mass of ceremony and speaking of polite nothings to be passed through before there was any chance of their being alone again. Otto relapsed into the pleasant and kindly manner which was habitual with him Fleta fell into one of her abstracted moods, and the court adopted its usual policy under such circumstances - let her be undisturbed. Few of the men cared to risk the satirical answers that came readiest to her lips when she was roused out of such a mood as this.
And yet at last someone did venture to rouse her; and a smile, delicious as a burst of sunshine, came swiftly and suddenly on her mouth.
It was Hilary Estanol. Pale, worn, the merre ghost of himself, his dark eyes looking strangely large in the white face they were set in. They were fixed on her as though there were nothing else in the world to look at.
Fleta held out her hand to him; his companion - a military officer who had brought him under protest, and in some doubt, for Hilary had no friends at Court - drew back in amazement. He understood now Hilary's importunity.
Hilary bent over Fleta's hand and held his lips near it for an instant, but did not touch it. A sort of groan came to her ear from his lips.
”You have resigned me?” she asked in a low vibrating whisper.
”You have cast me off”, he answered.
”Be it so”, she replied, ”but you have lived through it, and you now claim nothing. Is it not so? I read it in the dumb pain in your eyes.”
”Yes”, said Hilary, straightening himself and standing upright close beside her, and looking down upon her beautiful dark head. ”It is so. I will cry for the moon, nor will I weary any woman with my regret or entreaty, even you, Fleta, though it is no dishonour to humble oneself at the feet to such as you. No; I will bear my pain like a man. I came here to say goodbye. You are still something like the Fleta that I loved. Tomorrow you will not be.”
”How can you tell?” she said with her inscrutable smile. ”Still, I think you are right. And now that we are no longer lovers will you enter with me another bond? Will you be my comrade in undertaking the great task? I know you are fearless.”
”The great task?” said Hilary vaguely, and he put his hand to his forehead.
”The one great task of this narrow life - To learn its lesson and go beyond it.”
”Yes, I will be your comrade”, said Hilary in an even voice and without enthusiasm.
”Then meet me at two this very morning at the gate of the gardenhouse where you used to enter.”
It was now just midnight. Hilary noticed this as he turned away, for a little clock stood on a bracket close by. He looked at it, and looked back at Fleta. Could she mean what she said? But already the Fleta he knew had vanished; a cold, haughty, impassive young queen was accepting the uninteresting homage of a foreign minister. The guests were beginning to take their departure. Fleta and Otto did not propose to take any journey in honour of their wedding as is the custom in some places; the king opened for their use the finest set of guests' chambers in the palace, and these they occupied, remaining among the visitors until all had departed. On the next day Otto was to take his queen home; but he had to give way to the wishes of Fleta and her father as to the postponing of the journey.
From the great drawing-rooms Fleta went quietly away when the last guest had departed; she moved like a swíft shadow noiselessly along the corridors. She entered her own room, and there began, without summoning any attendant, to hastily take off her bridal robes. On a couch was lying the white robe and cloak which she had worn when she had endeavoured to enter the hall of the mystics. These she put on, and wrapping the cloak round her turned to leave the room. As she did so she came face to face with Otto, who had entered noiselessly, and was standing in silence beside her. She seemed scarcely to notice him, but changed her direction and proceeded towards another door. Otto quickly placed himself again in her way.
”No”, he said; ”you do not leave this room tonight.”
”And why?” asked Fleta, looking gravely at his set face.
”Because you are now my wife. I forbid it. Stay here, and with me. Come, let me take off that cloak, without any trouble; the white gown under it suits you even better than your wedding-dress.”
He unfastened the clasps which held the cloak together. Fleta made no opposition, but kept her eyes on his face; he would not meet her gaze, though his face was white and rigid with the intensity of his passion and purpose.
”Do you remember”, said Fleta, ”the last thing that you did when you were with Father Ivan? Do you remember kneeling before him and uttering these words – 'I swear to serve the master of truth and the teacher of life – '”
”That master - that teacher!” interrupted Otto hotly. ”I reserved my reason even in that incense-scented room. That master - that teacher - is my own intelligence - so I phrased it in my own mind - I recognise no other master.”
”Your own intelligence!” repeated Fleta. ”You have not yet learned to use it. You did not so phrase the vow then; you only rephrased it so afterwards, when you were away, and alone, and began again to struggle for your selfish freedom. No, Otto, you have not begun to use your intelligence. You are still the slave of your desires, eaten up with the longing for power and the lust of the tyrannical soul. You do not love me- you only desire to possesss me. You fancy your power is all you wish it to be. Well, put it to the test. Take this cloak from my shoulders.”
Otto came close, and took the cloak in his hand; and then a sudden passion filled him - he seized her in his arms and pressed his lips to hers - yet he did not do so, either, for the attempts was instantaneously surrendered. He staggered back, white and trembling.
Fleta stood erect and proud before him.
”That vow you took”, she said quietly, ”you knew very well in the inner recesses of your soul, in your true unblinded self, to make you a slave of the Great Order. That vow may yet save you from yourself, if you do not resent it too fiercely. But remember this; I am a neophyte of that order, and you being its slave, are under my command. I am your queen, Otto, but not your wife.”
She passed him as she said this, and he made no effort to detain her; indeed, the trembling had not yet left him, and hiswhole strength was taken by the attempt to control it. As she reached the door he succeeded in speaking:
”Why did you marry me?”
”Did I not tell you?” she said, pausing a moment and turning to look at him. ”I think I did. Because I have to learn to live on the plain as contentedly as on the mountain tops. There is but one way for me to do this, and that is to devote my life as your queen to the same great purpose it would serve were I the silver-robed initiate I desire to be. I go now to commence my work, with the aid of a lover who has learned to surrender his love.
She moved magnificiently from the room, looking much taller even than her natural height. And Otto let her go without any word or sign.
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