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.
[Lucifer, Vol I. London, Feb 15th, 1888, No 6.]
© 2004 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet
ON the next day, the same day rather, for they sat together in the laboratory till long after the sun was high, Hilary, to his own amazement, found that he had an official post in the household of the young Queen which would keep him continually about her. Indeed, he had to pack up instantly on being informed of the fact, in order to follow Fleta to her own dominions. How this had been effected none could tell - Hilary, least of all, for he saw immediately on presenting himself in King Otto's presence that he was regarded by him with dislike and distrust. Before, Otto had scarcely noticed him. The present state of things was decidedly a change for the worse. However, Hilary had already perceived very clearly that to serve under Fleta was to serve under a hard master. And he had no longer any kind of choice. Life was inconceivable without her - without the pain caused by her difficult service. He had rather suffer that than enjoy any other kind of pleasure. And, indeed, pleasure, apart from Fleta, did not appear to him to exist.
And yet he was still capable of doubting her.
Fleta had chosen a companion of royal birth to travel with her; a young duchess who bore the same family name as Fleta herself. This girl had been reared in a nunnery, and then taken to court, where she took part in all the pageants and immediately found herself surrounded by suitors. She was not very pretty, and certainly not at all clever. To go with Fleta seemed to her delightful, as it would introduce her to a new court and a fresh series of suitors. It struck Hilary as quite extraordinary that Fleta should choose this child as her companion - not that the Duchess was any younger than Fleta - indeed, they were almost of an age; but Fleta appeared to carry within her beautiful head the wisdom of centuries, while the Duchess was a mere school-girl trained in court etiquette.
These three were to travel together in Fleta's own favourite travelling carriage. She simply refused to travel with her husband. When he addressed her on the subject, she merely replied:
”You would weary me; and, moreover, I have work to do.”
And so they started; and as Hilary took his place, he thought of that strange drive when he and Fleta, and Father Amyot, had been the three. Recollecting this made him wonder what had become of Father Amyot; for the priest had not returned to his duties in the city. He asked Fleta, while the thought was in his mind, why Amyot was not with her now.
”He is of no use to me”, she answered coldly.
The journey was a very long and a very weary one to Hilary; for the Duchess, finding no one else to flirt with, insisted upon flirting with him; while Fleta lay back in her corner of the carriage hour after hour, with her eyes closed. What was the work she had to do? Hilary, who had overheard her answer to the King, wondered very much. And yet, as he watched her intently he saw that her face changed. it grew darker, more inscrutable, more set in purpose.
Late one evening, and when they were indeed travelling later than usual, hoping to reach their destination that same night, a curious thing happened. All day long Fleta had been silent, seemingly buried in thought; but sometimes when Hilary was watching her he noticed her lips move as if in speech. He sat opposite her whenever he could; this was not always possible, as the young Duchess would talk to him, and the carriage being very large and roomy, he had to change his position, and go nearer to her in order to carry on a conversation, with any comfort. But as it grew dark the Duchess grew tired, and leaned back half asleep, for indeed they had had a long day's journey.
Hilary withdrew himself to the corner opposite Fleta. It grew so dark he could no longer see her; they had a swinging-lamp in the roof of the carriage, but he did not want to light it unless Fleta wished it so; and, indeed, he longed for the quiet and the darkness very much. It made him feel more alone with her, he could try to follow and sicze her thoughts then without the perpetual disturbance of the little Duchess's quick eyes on him and her light voice in his ears.
He sat still and thought of Fleta - Fleta herself in her glorious beauty - sitting there opposite him shrouded by the darkness. He could endure it no longer - the man rose up in him and asserted itself - he leaned forward and put his hand upon her. He had scarcely done so when the Duchess uttered a shrill cry.
”My God!” she exclaimed, in a voice of horror, ”who is in the carriage with us?”
She flung herself across and knelt upon the floor between Hilary and Fleta; her terror was so great she did not know what she was doing.
Hilary leaned across her and instantly discovered that she was right - that there was another man in the carriage besides himself.
”Oh, kill him! kill him!” cried the little Duchess, in an agony of fear; ”he is a thief, a murderer, a robber!”
Hilary rose up and precipitated himself upon this person whom he could not see. A sense of self-defence, of defence of the women with him, seized him as we see it seize the animals. He discovered that this man had risen also. Blindly and furiously he attacked him, and with extraordinary strength. Hilary was young and full of vigour, but slight and not built like an athlete. Now, however, he seemed to be one. He found his adversary to be much larger and stronger than himself.
A fearful struggle followed. The carriage drove on through unseen scenery as fast as possible; Fleta could have stopped it had she thrown the window down and cried out to the postilions. But Fleta remained motionless - she might have fainted, she was so still. The little Duchess simply cowered on the ground beside her, clinging to her motionless figure. This terrified girl had not the presence of mind to think of stopping the carriage, and so obtaining help. She was too horror-struck to do anything. And, indeed, it was horrible, for the swaying struggling forms sometimes were right upon the two women, sometimes at the other side of the carriage; it was a deadly, horrible, ghastly struggle, all the more horrid for the silence. There wer no cries, no exclamations, for indeed, so far as Hilary was concerned, he had no breath to spare for them. There were only gasps, and heavy breathings, and the terrible sound that comes form a man's throat when he is fighting for his life. How long this hideous battle lasted none could tell - Hilary had no idea of the passage of time. The savage in him had now come so entirely uppermost and drowned all other consciousness, that his one thought was he must kill - kill - kill - and at last it was done. There was a moment when his adversary was below him, when he could use his whole force upon him - and then came a gasp and an unearthly cry - and silence.
Absolute silence for a little while. No one moved, no one stirred. The Duchess was petrified with horror. Hilary had sunk exhausted on the seat of the carriage - not only exhausted, but bewildered, for a host of other emotions besides savage fury began to rise within him. What - who - was this being he had destroyed? At that moment they were urged into a gallop, for they werer entering the city gates. Hilary threw down the window next him with a crash. ”Lights, lights!” he cried out, ”bring lights.” The carriage stopped, and there was a crowd immediately at the windows and the glare of torches fell into the carriage, making it bright as day. The little Duchess was crouched in the corner on the ground in a dead faint. Fleta sat up, strangely white, but calm. Nothing else was to be seen, alive or dead, save Hilary himself; and so horror-struck was he at this discovery that he turned and buried his face in the cushions of the carriage, and he never knew what happened - whether he wept, or laughed, or cursed - but some strange sound of his own voice he heard with his ears.
There was a carriage full of servants behind Fleta's carriage; when hers stopped so suddenly they all got out and came quickly to the doors.
”The Duchess has fainted”, said Fleta, rising so as to hide Hilary; ”the journey has been too long. Is there a house near where she can lie still a little while, and come on later to the palace?”
Immediately offers of help were made, and the servants and those who were glad to help them carried the poor little Duchess away.
”On to the palace!” cried Fleta, and shut the door and drew down the blinds. The postilion started the horses with all speed.
Suddenly the blood in Hilary's body began to surge and burn. Was it Fleta's arms that clung round him? Fleta's lips that printed warm, living kisses on his neck, his face, his hair? He turned and faced her.
”Tell me the truth”, he said. ”Are you a devil?”
”No”, she answered, ”I am not. I want to find my way to the pure good that governs life. But there are devils about me, and you have killed one of them tonight. Hush, calm yourself; remember what we are in the eyes of the world. For we are at the palace door, and Otto is standing there to receive us.”
She stepped out, the young queen.
Hilary followed her, stumbling, broken. he said he was ill, to those who spoke to him; and stood staring in wonder at the brilliant sight before him.
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