The Blossom and the Fruit
A TALE OF LOVE AND MAGIC
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,"
[Lucifer, Vol I. London, Sept 15th 1887, No 1.]
© 2003 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet
Two days later Hilary nerved himself to pay the visit to the Princess. He thought she could not consider it to be too soon, for it seemed to him two months since he had seen her.
She lived in a garden-house some two or three miles away in the country. Her father’s palace in the city never pleased her; she only came there when festivities or ceremonials made her presence necessary. In the country, with her chaperone and her maids, she was free to do as she chose. For they were one and all afraid of her, and held her ”laboratory” in the profoundest respect. None of them would have entered that room except to avoid some dreadful doom.
Hilary was taken to the Princess in the garden, where she was walking to and fro in an avenue of trees which were covered with sweet scented blossoms. She welcomed Hilary with a charming manner, and the hour he spent with her here in the sunshine was one of the wildest intoxication. They began openly to play the pretty game of love. Now that no eyes were on them the Princess let him forget that she belonged to a different rank from his own. When she was tired of walking, ”Come”, she said, ”and I will shew you my laboratory. No one in this house ever enters it. If you should say in the city that you have been in that room you will be besieged with questions. Be careful to say nothing.”
”I would die sooner”, exclaimed Hilary, to whom the idea of talking about the Princess and her secrets seemed like sacrilege.
The room was without windows, perfectly dark but for a softened light shed by a lamp in the centre of the high ceiling. The walls were painted black and on them were drawn strange figures and shapes in red. These had evidently not been painted by any artisan hand; though bold in touch, they were irregular in workmanship. Beside a great vessel which stood uupon the ground, was a chair, and in this chair a figure upon which Hilary’s attention immediately became fastened.
He saw at once that it was not human, that it was not a lay figure, that it was not a statue. It rsembled most a lay figure, but there was something strange about it which does not exist in the mere form on which draperies are hung. And its detail was elaborated; the skin was tinted, the eyes darkened correctly, the hair appeared to be human. Hilary remained at the doorway unable to advance because of the fascination this form exercised upon him.
The Princess looked back from where she stood in the centre of the room beneath the light; she saw the direction of his gaze and laughed.
”You need not fear it”, she said.
”Is it a lay figure?”, asked Hilary, trying to speak easily, for he remembered that she despised those who knew fear.
”Yes”, she answered, ”it is my lay figure.”
There was something that puzzled Hilary in her tone.
”Are you an artist?”, he asked.
”Yes”, she answered, ”in life – in human nature. I do not work with a pencil or a brush; I use an agent that cannot be seen yet can be felt.”
”What do you mean?”, asked Hilary.
She turned on him a strange look, that was at first distrustful, and then grew soft and tender.
”I will not tell you yet”, she said.
Hilary roused himself to answer her lightly.
”Have I to pass through some ordeal before you tell me?”, he asked.
”Yes”, she answered gaily, ”and already an ordeal faces you. Dare you advance into the room or no?”
Hilary made a great effort to break the spell that was on him. He went hastily across the room to where she stood. Then he realised that he had actually passed through an ordeal. He had resisted some force, the nature of which he knew not, and he had come out the victor Realising this brought to him another conviction.
”Princess”, he said, ”there is some one else in this room besides you and me. We are not alone.”
He spoke so suddenly, and from so great a sense of startled surprise, that he did not pause to think whether his question were a wise one or not. The Princess laughed as she looked at him.
”You are very sensitive”, she said. ”Certainly we were born under the same star, for we are susceptible to the same influences. No, we are not alone. I have servants here whom no eyes have seen but mine. Would you like to see them? Do not say yes, hastily. It means a long and tedious apprenticeship, obtaining mastery over these servants. But unless you conquer them you cannot often see me; for if you are much near to me they will hate you, and their hate is greater than your power to resist it.”
She spoke seriously now, and Hilary felt a strange sensation as he looked at this beautiful girl standing beneath the lamp light. He experienced a sudden dread of her as of someone stronger than himself; and also an impassioned desire to serve her, to be her slave, to give his life to her utterly. Perhaps she read the love in his eyes, for she turned away and moved towards the figure in the chair.
”I know this distresses you”, she said. ”You shall see it no longer.” She opened a large screen which was formed of some gold coloured material dovered with shapes outlined in black. She arranged this so that the figure was altogether hidden from view and also the great vessel which stood beside it.
”Now”, she said, ”you will breathe more freely. And I am going to shew you something. We did not come out of the sunshine for no purpose. And we must be quick, for my good aunt will be terrified when she finds I have brought you in here. I believe she will hardly expect to see you alive again.”
She opened a gold vessel, which stood upon a cabinet, while she spoke, and the air immediately became full of a strong sweet perfume. Hilary put his hand to his forehead. Was it possible that he could be so immediately affected, or was it his imagination that the red shapes and figures which were on the black wall moved and ordered and arranged themselves? Yet, so it was; to his eyes the forms mingled and again broke up and re-mingled. A word was formed and then another. It was unconsciously imprinted on Hilary’s memory before it changed and vanished; he noticed only the mysterious occurrence which was happening before his eyes. Suddenly he became aware that a sentence had been completed; that words had been written there which he would never have dared to utter; that on the wall before him had appeared in letters as of fire the secret of his heart. He staggered back and drew his eyes with difficulty from the wall to fix them in amazement and fear upon the Princess. Her face was flushed, her eyes were bright and tender.
”Did you see it?”, he asked in a trembling voice.
For a moment she hesitated then she answered, ”Yes, I saw it.”
There was a brief silence. Hilary looked again at the wall, expecting to see the thought in his miind written there. But the shapes were returning to their original appearance, and the perfume was dying out of the air.
”Come”, said the Princess suddenly, ”we have been here long enough. My aunt will be distressed. Let us go to her.”
She led the way from the room, and Hilary followed her. In another moment they were in a large drawing-room, flooded with sunshine and fragrant with flowers; the Princess’ aunt was busied with silks which she had entangled while at her embroidery; the Princess was on her knees beside her, holding a skein of yellow silk upon her hands. Hilary stood a moment utterly bewildered. Had he been dreaming? Was that black room and its terrible atmosphere a phantasy?
He had stayed long enough, and he now took his leave reluctantly. The Princess, who would have no ceremony at the Garden House, rose from her knees and said she would open the gate for him. Hilary flushed with pleasure at this mark of kindness.
The gate she took him to was a narrow one that stood in a thick-set hedge of flowering shrubs. When he had passed through he looked back, and saw the Princess leaning on the gate, framed in gorgeous blossoms. She smiled and held out her hand to him. The richness of her presence intoxicated him, and he lost all sense of the apparently impassable gulf between them.
”You read the words”, he said, ”and you give me your hand in mine?”
”I read the words”, she answered, in a soft voice that thrilled him, ”and I give you my hand in yours. Goodbye!”
She had touched his hand for an instant, and now she was gone. Hilary turned to walk through the flowering hedges to the city. But his heart, his thought, his soul remained behind. She had read the words, and she was not angry. She knew of his love for her and she was not angry. She had read his heart and had not taken offence. What might he not hope for?
Then came another thought. She had read the words. Then that black room was no phantasy, but a fact as actual as the sunshine. What were the powers of this strange creature that he loved? He knew not; but he knew that he loved her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
An overpowering desire carried him daily on that road between the flowery hedges to the Garden House. Only sometimes had he the courage to enter. Most often he lingered at that narrow gate, embosomed in flowers and looked longingly over it. The first time that he entered after this visit, in which his secret was written before his eyes, he found the Princess standing within the gate. She held out her hand to him saying simply, ”I knew you were coming. I have prepared something, and I have persuaded my aunt that no terrible thing will happen if you are in my laboratory for a little while. So come with me.”
It was brilliantly lit, this black walled room she called her laboratory. The great vessel stood in the midst of the floor beneath the lamp, and from it rose flame and smoke. A strong and vivid perfume filled the air, and the upper part of the high room was clouded with grey blue smoke, that shone in the light like silver.
In the chair beside it sat a figure: it was that of a beautiful woman. A strange mixture of emotions overpowered Hilary. At the first glance he felt that this figure was the same he had seen the other day; at the second he recognised his mother. He rushed forward to her and became aware that she was lifeless; then he turned passionately upon the Princess with anger and horror in his face.
”What have you done? What have you done?”, he cried.
”Nothing”, she said, with a smile. ”I have done no harm. Do you not see that is only an image? My lay figure, as I told you.”
Blossom and the Fruit:
| Introduction | Chap 1 | Chap 2 | Chap 3 | Chap 4 | Chap 5 | Chap 6a | Chap 6b | Chap 7 | Chap 8 | Chap 9 | Chap 10 | Chap 11-12 | Chap 13 |
| Chap 14 | Chap 15 |
He gave a long look at the inanimate shape that was so perfect a representation of his mother, and then he turned upon the Princess a look of more intense horror than before.
”What are you doing”, he asked, in a low voice.
”No harm!”, she answered lightly. ”Your mother hates and fears me. I cannot endure that. I am making her love me. I am making her desire your presence here with me.”
For a while they stood in silence by the side of the vessel and its flaming contents; then suddenly Hilary cried out: ”I cannot bear it! Put an end to this terrible spell!”
”Yes”, said the Princess, ”I will, but not to its results.”
She drew the screen before the seated figure, and threw something into the vessel that instantly quenched the flame.
Then she led Hilary from the room, and they walked up and down beneath the trees, talking of things as lovers talk – things that interested themselves but none other.
When Hilary returned home his mother rose from her couch and held out her hand to him. She drew him to sit beside her.
”Hilary”, she said, ”something tells me you have been with the Princess Fleta. It is well, and I am glad. She is a good friend for you; ask her if I shall come to see her.”
Hilary rose without replying. The dew stood on his brow. For the first time he was conscious of actual fear, and the fear he felt was of the woman he loved.
(To be continued.)
Blossom and the Fruit:
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