The Blossom and the Fruit
A TALE OF LOVE AND MAGIC*
A True Story of a Black Magician
* The sub-title ”A tale of love and magic”, having been simultaneously used by myself, Mr Joseph Hutton, and another author, I think it best to change mine for one certainly less pretty, but equally descriptive. Is not this simultaneous use also a ”sign of the times”?
by Mabel Collins
"The Prettiest Woman in Warsaw."
"The Idyll of The White Lotus,"
"Through The Gates of Gold,"
[Lucifer, Vol I. London, Oct 15th, 1887, No 2.]
© 2004 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet
IN a chapel of the great Cathedral in the city there was at certain hours always a priest who held there his confessional.
To him went Hilary some days later. In the interim he had not seen the Princess. His soul had been torn hither and thither, to and fro. His passion for the beautiful girl held him fast, while his horror of the magician repelled him from her. He went to the Cathedral in the afternoon determined that he would reveal all his distress to the priest. Father Amyot was in his confessional, but some one was with him, for the curtain was drawn. Hilary knelt down at the small altar of the chapel there to wait. Presently there was a slight sound; he turned his head to see if the confessional was now free. The Princess Fleta stood beside him, her eyes fixed on him; it was she who at this instant only had risen from her knees in the confessional. Hilary, amazed and dumb with wonder, could only gaze upon her. She kept her strange and fascinating eyes fixed on his for a moment and then turned and with swift, soft steps left the chapel. Hilary remained kneeling motionless before the altar, his mind absorbed in what was hardly so much thought as amazement. Fleta was not then what he thought her. If she were sensitive to religious impressions she could not be the cold magician which she had appeared to him to be when he recollected the last scene in the laboratory. Perhaps after all she used her power generously and for good. He began to see her in another light. He began to worship her for her goodness as well as for her strong attractions. His heart leaped with joy at the thought that her soul was as beautiful as her body. He rose from his knees and turned instinctively and without thought to follow her. As he did so he passed Father Amyot, who seeing that no one else came immediately to the confessional, had left it and flung himself at full length upon the ground before the altar. He wore a long robe of a coarse white cloth, tied at the waist with a black cord; a hood of the same cloth covered his shaven head. He was like a skeleton, perfectly fleshless and emaciated. His face lay sideways on the stone; he seemed unconscious, so profound was his abstraction. The eyes were open but had no sight in them. They were large grey blue eyes, full of a profound melancholy which gave them an appearance as if tears stood in them. This melancholy affected Hilary strangely; it touched his heart, made thrill and vibrate some deeply sensitive cord in his nature. He stood gazing a moment at the prostrate figure, and then with a profound obeisance left the chapel.
The Princess Fleta had her horse waiting for her. She was a constant and daring rider, and seldom entered the city except on horseback, to the amazement of the court ladies, who in the city rode in carriages that they might dress beautifully. But Fleta had no vanity of this kind. Probably no other girl of her age would have willingly adopted the hideous dress of the witch and worn if before so many cuious eyes. Her own beauty and her own appearance was a subject of but the slightest thought to her. She would walk down the fashionable promenade in her riding habit among the magnificent toilettes of the Court ladies. This she was doing now while a servant led her horse up and down. Hilary watched her from a distance, unable to summon courage to approach her in the midst of such a throng of personages. But presently Fleta saw him and came with her swift light step towards him. ”Will you walk with me?”, she asked. ”There is no one here to be my companion but you.”
”And why is that?”, asked Hilary, as with flushed face and eager steps he accompanied her.
”Because there are none that sympathise with me. You alone have entered my laboratory.”
”But would not any of these be glad to come if you would admit them?”
Not one would have the courage, except perhaps some few wild spirits who would dare anything for mere excitement. And they would not please me.”
Hilary was silent. Her words showed him very plainly that he pleased her. But there was a chill in his nature which now asserted itself. Here in the midst of so many people her hold on him was lessened, and he doubted her more than ever. Was she merely playing with him for her own amusement? Her high position gave her this power and he could not resent it, for even to be her favourite for a day would be accounted by any man an honour and a thing to boast of. And Hilary was being signalled out for public honour. He felt the envious glances of the men whom he met, and immediately a cold veil fell on his heart. He desired no such envy. To his mind love was a thing sacred. His scorn of life and doubt of human nature awakened at this moment of triumph. He did not speak, but the Princess answered his thought.
”We will go away from here”, she said. ”In the country you are a creature of passion. Here you become a cynic.”
”How do you know my heart?”, he asked.
”We were born under the same star”, she answered quietly.
”That is no sufficient answer”, he replied. ”It conveys no meaning to me, for I know nothing of the mysterious sciences you study.”
”Come then with me”, she answered, ”and I will teach you.”
She signed to her servant, who brought her horse; she mounted and rode away with merely a smile to Hilary. She knew that in spite of the chill that was on him he would hunger for her in her absence and soon follow. And so he did. The pavements appeared empty though crowds moved over them; the city seemed lifeless and dull, though it was one of the gayest in the world. He turned from the streets, and walking into the country, found himself very soon at the narrow wicket gate of the Princess Fleta’s Garden House.
She was wandering up and down the avenue between the trees. Her dress was white now, and very long and soft, falling in great folds from her shoulders. As she moved slowly to and fro, the dancing sunlight playing on her splendid form, it seemed to Hilary that he saw before him not a mere woman, but a priestess. Her late visit to the Cathedral reccured to him; if the religious soul was in her, might she not, indeed, spite of her strange acts, be no magician, but a priestess? He returned to his former humour and was ready to worship at her feet. She greeted him with a smile that thrilled him; her eyes read his very soul, and her smile brought to it an unutterable joy. She turned and led the way to the house and Hilary followed her.
She opened her laboratory door, and immediately Hilary became aware of the strong odour of some powerful incense. The dim smoke was still in the room but the flame had all died away in the vessel. By the side of the vessel lay a prostrate figure. Hilary uttered a cry of amazement and of horror as he recognised Father Amyot. He turned such a look of dismay upon the Princess that she answered his thought in a haughty tone which she had never before used in addressing him.
”It is not time yet to ask me the meaning of what you may see here. Some day, perhaps, when you know more, you may have the right to question me: but not now. See, I can change this appearance that distresses you, in a moment.”
She raised the prostrate figure, and flung off from it the white robe that resembled Father Amyot’s. Beneath, it was clothed in a dull red garment such as Hilary had first seen it in. With a few swift touches of her hand the Princess changed the expression of the face. Father Amyot was gone, and Hilary saw sitting in the chair before him that unindividualised form and face which at his visit to the laboratory had affected him with so much horror. The Princess saw the repugnance still in his face, and with a laugh opened the screen with which she had hidden the figure before.
”Now”, she said, ”come and sit beside me on this couch.”
But before she left the great vessel she threw in more incense and lit it. Already Hilary was aware that the fumes of that which had been already burned had affected his brain. The red figures moved upon the black wall, and he watched them with fascinated eyes.
They shaped themselves together not, this time, into words, but into forms. And the wall instead of black became bright and luminous. It was as though Hilary and Fleta sat alone before an immense stage. They heard the spoken words and saw the gestures and the movements of these phantasmal actors as clearly and with as much reality as though they were creatures of flesh and blood before them. It was a drama of the passions; the chief actors were Hilary and Fleta themselves. Hilary almost forgot that the real Fleta was at his side, so absorbed was he in the action of the phantasmal Fleta.
He was bewildered, and he could not understand the meaning of what he saw, clearly though the drama was enacted in front of him. He saw the orchard full of blossoming trees; he saw the splendid savage woman. He knew that he himself and this Fleta at his side, were in some strange way playing a part under this savage guise; but how or what it was he could not tell. Fleta laughed as she watched his face. ”You do not know who you are”, she cried. ”That is a great loss and makes life much more difficult. But you will know by and bye if you are willing to learn. Come, let us look at another and a very different page of life.”
The stage grew dark and moving shadows passed to and fro upon it, great shadows that filled Hilary’s soul with dread. At last they drew back and left a luminous space where Fleta herself was visible. Fleta, in this same human shape that she wore now, yet strangely changed. She was much older and yet more beautiful; there was a wonderful fire in her brilliant eyes. On her head was a crown, and Hilary saw that she had great powers to use or abuse – it was written on her face. Then something drew his eyes down and he saw a figure lying helpless at her feet – why was it so still? – it was alive! – yes, but it was bound and fettered, bound hand and foot.
”Are you afraid?” broke out Fleta’s voice with a ring of mocking laughter in it. ”Surely you are not afraid – why should I not reign? Why should you not suffer? You are a cynic; is there anything good to be expected?”
”Perhaps not”, said Hilary. ”It may be that you are heartless and false. And yet, as I stand here now, I feel that though you may betray me by and bye, and take my life and liberty from me, yet I love your very treachery.”
Fleta laughed aloud, and Hilary stood silent, confused by the words he had spoken hastily without pausing to think whether they were fit to speak or not. Well, it was done now. He had spoken of his love. She could refuse ever to see him again and he would go into the outer darkness.
”No”, she said, ”I shall not send your away. Do you not know, Hilary Estanol, that you are my chosen companion? Otherwise would you be here with me now? The word love does not alarm me; I have heard it too often. Only I think it very meaningless. Let us put it aside for the present. If you let yourself love me you must suffer; and I do not want you to suffer yet. When pain comes to you the youth will go from your face; you do not know how to preserve it, and I like your youth.”
Hilary made no answer. It was not easy to answer such a speech, and Hilary was not in the humour for accomplishing any thing difficult. His brain was confused by the fumes of the incense and by the strange scenes so mysteriously enacted before his eyes. He scarcely knew what Fleta this was that stood beside him. And yet he knew he loved her through he distrusted her! With each moment that he passed by her side he worshipped her more completely, and the disbelief interfered less and less with his proud joy in being admitted to her intimacy.
”Now”, said Fleta, ”I want you to do a new thing. I want you to exercise your will and compel my servants who have been pleasing us with phantasies, to show us a phantasy of your own creation. You can do this very well, if you will. It only needs that you shall not doubt you can do it. Ah! How quickly does the act follow the thought!” She uttered the last words with a little cry of amused pleasure. For the dim shadows had rapidly masked the stage and then again withdrawn, leaving the figure of Fleta very clearly visible, beautiful and passionate, her face alight with love, held clasped in Hilary’s arms, her lips pressed close to his.
The real Fleta who sat beside him rose now with a shake of her head, and a laugh which was not all gay. The shadows closed instantly over the stage, and a moment later the illusion was all destroyed and the solid wall was there before Hilary’s eyes. He had become so accustomed to witness the marvellous inside this room that he did not pause to wonder; he followed Fleta as she crossed to the door, and tried to attract her attention.
”Forgive me, my Princess”, he murmured over and over again.
”Oh, you are forgiven”, she said at last lightly. ”You have not offenced, so it is easy for me to forgive. I do not think a man can help what is in his heart; at all events, no ordinary man can. And you, Hilary, have consented to be like the rest. Are you content?
”No!”, he answered instantly. And as he spoke he understood for the first time the fever that had stirred him all through his short bright life. ”Content! How should I be? Moreover, is not our star the star of restlessness and action?”
For the first time, Fleta turned on him a glance of real tenderness and emotion. When he said the words ”our star”, it seemed as if he had touched her heart.
”Ah!”, she said, ”How sorely I long for a companion!”
Then she turned from him very abruptly, and almost before he knew she had moved she had opened the door, and was standing outside waiting for him. ”Come!”, she said impatiently. He followed her immediately, for he had no choice but to do so; yet he was disappointed. He was more deeply disappointed when he found that she led the way with swift steps into the room where her aunt sat. Arrived there, Fleta threw herself into a chair, took up a great golden fan and began to fan herself, while she talked about the gossip of the Court. The change was so sudden that for some moments Hilary could not follow her. He stood bewildered, till the aunt pushed a low chair towards him; and he felt then that the old lady was not surprised at his manner, but only sorry for him. And then suddenly the cynic re-asserted itself in his heart. A thought that bit like flame suddenly started into life. Had the bewildered emotion that had been, as he knew, visible on his face, been seen on others before; was Fleta not only playing with him, but playing with him as she had played with many another lover? The thought was more hateful than any he had ever suffered from; it wounded his vanity, which was more tender and delicate than his heart.
Fleta gave him no opportunity of anything but talk such as seemed in her stately presence too trivial to be endured, and so at last he rose and went his way. Fleta did not accompany him to the gate this time. She left him to go alone, and he felt as if she had withdrawn her favour in some degree; and yet perhaps that was foolish, he told himself for after all both he and she had said too much today.
Fleta was bethrothed. She had been betrothed at her christening. Before long her marriage would take place; and then that crown seen in the vision would be placed on her head. Had it needed the vision to bring that fact to his mind, asked Hilary of himself? If so, ’twas time, he bitterly added, for Fleta was not a woman who was likely to give up a crown for the sake of love! His heart rose fiercely within him as he thought of all this. Why had she tempted him to speak of love? For surely he never would have dared to so address her had she not tempted him; so he thought.
If he could have seen Fleta now! As soon as he left the room she had risen and slowly moved back to her laboratory. Entered there, she drew away a curtain which concealed a large mirror let deep into the wall. She did this resolutely, yet as if reluctantly. Immediately her gaze became fixed on the glass. She saw Hilary’s figure within it moving on his way towards the city. She read his thoughts and his heart. At last she dropped the curtain with a heacy sigh, and let her arms fall at her side with a gesture that seemed to mean despair; certainly it meant deep dejection. And presently some great tears dropped upon the floor at her feet.
None, since Fleta was born, had seen her shed tears.
Blossom and the Fruit:
| till Helena Blavatsky Online | till ULTs hemsida | till toppen av sidan | till Meditation Huvudindex |
Copyright © 1998-2014 Stiftelsen Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö