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,"
[Lucifer, Vol I. London, Nov 15th, 1887, No 3.]
© 2004 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet
ADVENTURE is said to be sweet to the young; if it was so to Hilary, he must soon have found abundant pleasure in the possession of enough sweets. For the next few days scarcely an hour passed without an event large enough in his eyes to be an adventure.
He was ready at the hour Fleta had named; and had provided against all probable contingencies by taking with him the smallest possible amount of luggage. For aught he knew they might have to climb mountains in the course of this journey. And moreover he knew Fleta’s unprincess-like distaste for superfluities; he would not have been surprised to see her start in her riding habit and take no luggage at all. The difficulty he dreaded was his mother’s surprise at this scant provision of his. But good luck – or was it something else? – took her away. She was summoned to visit a sick friend at a little distance out of the city, and said goodbye to Hilary before her departure. So Hilary made his preparations without being troubled by criticism.
At noon a lad presented himself at the door of the Estanol’s house, with a note which he said he was to give into Hilary’s own hand. Hilary immediately went to him and took it, as he guessed it was from Fleta. A single line! – and no signature! –
“I am waiting for you outside the north gate.”
Hilary took his valise in his hand, afraid to hire a carriage lest it should not please her that he brought any eyes to note their meeting. He walked out of the city by the quietest side streets he could select, hoping not to meet any of his friends. He met no one he knew, and with a sigh of relief passed out through the gate and walked on to the broad country road beyond it. Drawn up under some trees was a handsome travelling carriage, with four horses and postilions. Hilary was surprised. He had not expected so much luxury. When he reached the carriage he was even more surprised. Fleta was hardly dressed as for a journey; she wore a much richer robe than usual, and her head and shoulders were covered with beautiful black lace. She leaned back in a corner of the roomy carriage, with a voluptuous dreamy expression on her face which was new to Hilary. Opposite her sat Father Amyot. Hilary could not but regard the priest with amazement. Was the town to lose its favourite confessor? How then could all the gossips in it be prevented from hearing of the Princess Fleta’s journey? But Hilary resolved not to harass himself with conjecture. He entered the carriage and Fleta motioned to him to seat himself at her side.
At her side! Yes, that was his place. And Father Amyot, the father confessor, beloved and almost worshipped by the people, in whose breast reposed the secrets and the sorrows of the city; Father Amyot, who was the model of piety to all who knew him, sat opposite in the carriage. Did he watch the lovers? Seemingly not. His eyes were lowered and his gaze was apparently fixed on his clasped hands. He sat there like a statue. Once or twice when Hilary glanced at his face, he fancied he must be there unwillingly. Was it so? Was he Fleta’s tool and servant held by her domineering temper to do her bidding? Surely not. Father Amyot was too well known as a man of power for the idea to be credible. Hilary checked himself for the hundredth time in these hopeless speculations and determined to enjoy the moment he was in possession of and not trouble about the next one till it came; nor yet endeavour to read others’ hearts. And so this young philosopher went open eyed, as he believed, to his destruction.
The carriage rolled away at a great speed; it was drawn by four beautiful Russian horses, and the postilions were fleta’s own, and accustomed to her likings. She was a most daring and intrepid rider and nothing pleased her in the way of motion except great speed. She was a lover of animals and her horses were the finest kept in the city. It was strange to Hilary to try and realise her singular independence of position, as today he felt impelled to. For himself he was still to a great extent in leading strings; he had made no position for himself, nor even planned any career; he was dependent on his mother’s fortune, and consequently, to a certain extent, could act only according to her approval. He was still so young that all this seemed natural enough. But Fleta was younger than himself, though it was difficult always to remember it, so dominant was her temper. A glance at her fresh face still so soft in its outlines as to have something childish about it when her expression permitted; at her figure, so slender in spite of its stateliness, recalled the fact that the Princess was indeed only a girl. Did the man who was about to marry her suppose that his young Queen was a creature unformed, fresh from the schoolroom, altogether malleable to his hand?
During the whole of the afternoon they drove on with scarcely a pause, and with very little conversation to pass the time. Yet for Hilary it flew with swift wings. The mere sensation of his novel position was enough for him as yet. To be beside Fleta and to watch her mysterious face for so long together satisfied for the moment his longing soul. Fleta herself seemed buried in profound thought. She sat silent, her eyes on the country they passed through, but her mind, as far as Hilary could judge, wandering in some remote region. As for Father Amyot, his regard remained fixed upon a small crucifix which he held hidden within his clasped hands, and now and then his lips moved in prayer, while, on that austere face, no expression seemed to have room but that of adoration or contemplation of the divine.
At sundown they stopped at a very small way-side inn. Hilary could not believe they were going to stay here, for it looked little more than a place where men drink and horses are fed. Yet so it was. The carriage was driven round to the side of the small house, the horses taken out of it, and Fleta led the way in at a side door, followed by her two companions.
Within they found a motherly, plain and kindly woman, who evidently knew Fleta well; Hilary learned afterwards that this landlady had been a kitchen maid in the royal household. And now he saw strange things indeed. For this inn was in reality nothing but a drinking shop for the drivers who passed along the road. It had no parlour, nor any accommodation for travellers of a better sort. And Fleta knew this, as was evident at once. She drew a hard chair forward, close to the great fire which flamed upon the wide open chimney, and sat down seemingly quite at her ease.
“We must have some supper”, she said to the landlady. “Get us what you can. Can you find room for these gentlemen tonight?”
The landlady came near to Fleta and spoke in a low voice; the Princess laughed.
“There are no bedrooms in this house, it seems”, she said, aloud, “in fact, it is not an hotel. Shall we drive on or shall we sit here through the night?”
“The horses are tired”, said Father Amyot, speaking for the first time since they had left the city.
“True”, said Fleta, absently – for already she appeared to be thinking of something else. “I suppose, then, we must stay here.”
Hilary had never passed, nor ever contemplated passing, a night in such rough fashion. He was fond of comfort, or rather of luxury. But what could he do when his Princess, the greatest lady in the land, set him the example. Any protest would have appeared effeminate, and his pride held him silent. Still, when after a very indifferent supper, they all returned to the hard wooden chairs beside the fire, Hilary for the moment very sincerely wished himself at home in his own comfortable rooms. As he wished this, suddenly he became aware that Fleta’s dark eyes had turned upon him, and he would not look up, for he believed she had read his thought. He wished he could have hidden it from her, for he had no mind to be held as more effeminate than herself.
There was a sort of second kitchen even rougher and more cheerless than the one in which they sat; and there the postilions and other men, the ordinary customers of the house, were crowded together, drinking and talking and singing. Their presence was horrid to Hilary, who was conscious of refined susceptibilities, but Fleta seemed quite indifferent to the noise they made and the odour of their coarse tobacco; or rather it might be that she was unaware of anything outside her own thoughts. She sat, her chin on her hand, looking into the fire; and so graceful and perfect was her attitude that she had the air of being a masterpiece of art placed amid the commonest surroundings. She looked more lovely than ever from the contrast, but yet the incongruity was painful to Hilary.
The silence in the room in which they sat became the more marked from contrast with the increasing noise in the crowded room without. At last, however, the hour came for the house to be closed and the landlady politely showed her customers the door; all except those who were travellers on the road. These, including the postilions, gathered into the chimney corner and became quiet, at last falling sound asleep. To Hilary it seemed now that he was living through a painful dream, and he longed for the awakening – willing to awake, even if that meant that he would be at home and away from Fleta.
At last sleep came to him, and his head drooped forward; he sat there, upright in the wooden chair, fast asleep. When he awoke it was with a sense of pain in every limb, from the posture which he had maintained; and he could scarcely refrain from crying out when he attempted to move. But he instantly remembered that if the others were sleeping he must not wake them. Then he quickly looked round. Father Amyot sat near, looking just as he had looked since they entered the house; he might have been a statue. Fleta's chair was empty.
Hilary roused himself, sat up and stared at her empty place; then looked all round the kitchen. An idea occurred to him; possibly the landlady had found some resting place for the young Princess. A sense of oppression came over him; the kitchen seemed stifling. He rose with difficulty and stretched himself, then found his way out into the air. It was a glorious morning; the sun had just risen, the world seemed like a beautiful woman seen in her sleep. How sharp the sweet fresh air was! Hilary drew a deep breath of it. The country in which this lonely little inn stood was exceedingly lovely, and at this moment it wore its most fascinating appearance. A sense of great delight came upon Hilary; the uneasiness of the past night was at an end, and he was glad now and full of youth and strength. He turned and walked away from the house, soon leaving the road and plunging into the dewy grass. There was a stream in the valley, and here he determined to bathe. He soon reached it, and in another moment had hastily undressed, and was plunged in the ice-cold water. An intoxicating sense of vigour came over him as he experienced the keen contact. Never had he felt so full of life as now! It was not possible to remain long in the water, it was so intensely cold; he sprang out again and stood for a moment on the bank in the brilliant morning sunshine, looking like a magnificent figure carved by the god of the day, his flesh gleaming in the light. Slowly he began at last to put on his dress, feeling as if in some way this meant a partial return and submission to civilization. Something of the savage which lay deep hidden in him had been roused and touched. A fire burned that hitherto he had never felt, and which made him long for pure freedom and uncriticised life. And this was Hilary Estanol! It seemed incredible that a draught of fresh morning air, a plunge into ice-cold water beneath the open sky, should have been enough to unloose the savage in him, which was held fast beneath his conventional and languid self, as it is in all of us, and all those whom we meet in ordinary life. He moved hastily, striding on as though he were hurrying to some end, but it was merely a new pleasure in motion. There was a grove of old yew trees near the stream; a grove which with the superstitious was held to be sacred. That it should be revered was no wonder, so stately were the ancient trees, so deep the shadow they cast. Hilary went towards this grove, attracted by its splendid appearance; as he approached its margin a dim sense of familiarity came over him. Never had he left the city by this road, yet it seemed to him that he had entered the grove of yews by the early morning light already many a time. We are all accustomed to meet with this curious sensation; Hilary laughed at it and put it away. What if he had visited this spot in a dream? Now it was broad daylight, and he felt himself young and a giant. He plunged into the deep shadow, pleased by the contrast it made to the brilliant light without.
Suddenly his heart leaped within him and his brain reeled. For there before him, stood Fleta; and the brilliant Princess looked like a spirit of the night, so pale and grave and proud was her face and so much a part did she seem of the deep shadow of the wood.
“Is it you?” she said with a smile, a smile of mystery and deep unfathomable knowledge.
“Yes it is!” he answered, and felt, as he spoke, that he said something in those words which he did not himself understand. They stood side by side for a moment in silence; and then Hilary remembered himself to be alone with this woman, alone with her in the midst of the world. They were separated by the hour from other men and women, for the world still lay asleep; they were separated by the deep shadow of the wood from all moving life that answered to the sun. They were alone – and overwhelmed by this sudden sense of solitude Hilary spoke out his soul.
“Princess”, he said, “I am ready to be your blind servant, your dumb slave, speaking and seeing only when you tell me. You know well why I am willing to be the tool in your hands. It is because I love you. But you must pay a price for your tool if you would have it! I cannot only worship at your feet. Fleta, you must give yourself to me, absolutely, utterly. Marry that man to whom you are betrothed if you desire to be a queen, but to me you must give your love, yourself. Ah! Fleta, you cannot refuse me!”
Fleta stood still a long moment, her eyes upon his face.
“No”, she said, “I cannot refuse you.”
And to Hilary, for an instant of horror, it seemed to him that in her eyes was a glance of ineffable scorn. Yet there was love in the smile on her lips and in the touch of her hand as she laid it in his.
“The bond is made”, she said, “all that you can take of me is yours. And I will pay you for your love with my love. Only do not forget that you and I are different – that we are after all, two persons – that we cannot love in exactly the same way. Do not forget this!”
Hilary knew not what to answer. As she spoke the last words he recognised his princess, he saw the queen before him. What did she mean? Well, he was so unhappy that his love had gone from thim to a lady of royal birth. It could not be undone, this folly. He must be content to take that part which a subject may take in the life of a queen, even though he be her lover. The thought brought a pang, a swift stab to his heart and a sigh burst from his lips. Fleta put her hand on his arm.
“Do not be sad so soon”, she said, “let us wait for trouble. Come, let us go out into the sunshine.”
They went out, hand in hand; they wandered down beside the stream and looked into the gleaming waters.
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 |
| till Helena Blavatsky Online | till ULTs hemsida | till toppen av sidan | till Meditation Huvudindex |
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