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, Jan 15th, 1888, No 5.]
© 2004 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet
THE cloud lifted to reveal Fleta’s face. She was bending over him; she was at his side; she was almost leaning her face on his.
”My dear, my dear”, she said in a soft whispering voice, ”has the blow been too great? Tell me, Hilary, speak to me? Have you still your senses?”
”And you love that man?” was Hilary’s sole answer, fixing his eyes in a cold strange gaze on her.
”Oh! Hilary, you talk of what is unknown to you! I love him, yes, and with a love so profound it is unimaginable to you.”
”And you tell me this! You tell this to the man who loves you, and who has already devoted his whole life to you! Do you want a madman for your service?”
”A life! Exclaimed Fleta, with a strange tone that had a ring as of scorn in it. ”What is a life? I count it nothing. Our great aims lie beyond such considerations.”
Hilary raised himself and looked into her face.
”Then you are mad”, he said, ”and if so, a madman in your service is but fit. Nevertheless, my Princess, do not forget with what forces you have to contend. I am but a man; you have accepted my love. Only just now you have made me a murderer at heart – in desire. How soon shall I be one in reality? That depends on you, Fleta. The next time I see your gaze fixed on that man’s face as I saw it but now I will kill him.”
Fleta rose to her full height and lifted her face to the sky; as she stood there a sort of shiver passed through her, a shiver as of pain. Instantly Hilary’s humour changed. ”You are ill”, he exclaimed. She turned her eyes on him.
”When that murderous mood is on you, it will not be Father Ivan that you kill, but me, whom you profess to love. Do you understand that?”
”Ah!” cried Hilary, uttering a sound as if his heart was bursting under the torture, ”that is because you love him so! Well, I can only long and serve. I have no power to protest. Yet I ask you, oh! Princess, is it fit to use a man’s heart to play at your queenly coquetries with? A king, your betrothed – a mysterious priest, the man you love – are not these enough but that you must take a boy, obscure and untaught in such misfortunes, and trample on his love? It is unlike the nobility I have seen in you. Goodbye, for this, Princess! I am never your lover again as I was before. I can never believe in your pure sweet heart – only this morning it seemed to me as a pearl, as a drop of limpid water. Goodbye, my idol! Yet I am your servant to obey always, for I gave you my life to do with as you would. Call me, and I come, like your dog; but I will not stay by you, for no longer is it anything but pain to do so.”
With these wild, fierce reproaches, which seemed to stir the quiet air of the woodland, and make it seethe and burn with passion and despair, he turned and went from her. Fleta stood motionless, and her eyes drooped heavily; only she murmured, ”We were born under the same star!”
Her voice was very low, yet it reached Hilary’s ear. The words seemed to lash his heart.
”Under the same star!” he repeated, in a voice of agony, standing suddenly still. ”No, Fleta. Your are the queen, I the subject. Not only so, but you know it, and use your power to the full. Did you not promise yourself utterly to me to be mine?”
”I promised to give you my love for yours; I promised to give you all that you can take of me. My love is greater than you can even imagine, else I would not have listened to one word of your reproaches. They have humbled me, but I have borne it.”
”Ah, Fleta! you talk enigmas”, exclaimed Hilary, moving rapidly back to her side; ”you are enough to madden a man; yet I cannot but love you. Why is this? Every act of yours proves you heartless, faithless, and yet I love you! Why is this? Oh, that I could read the riddle of your existence! Who are you? – What is this mysterious place? – Who is that priest whose rule you acknowledge? I will know!”
Fleta turned on him a sudden sweet smile, that seemed to light up his inner being as the flame of a lamp illumines a dusky room.
”Yes”, she said, ”find out. I cannot tell you, yet I desire you – oh! Indeed, I desire you to know. Compel the secret – force it. Yes, yes, Hilary!”
She spoke eagerly, with a bright ring in her voice that thrilled his soul. He forgot the Princess, the conspirator, the religieuse – he only remembered the girl he loved – young, fresh, flower-like, with the fair sweet face close to his own. With an unutterable cry of love he held out his arms to her.
”Oh, my dear, my love, come!” he said, in trembling tones that vibrated with his passion. But Fleta turned away without a word and walked through the tall ferns, her robe trailing on the ground. No backward glance, no turn of the head, not even a movement of those white statuesque hands which hung at her sides. In one was a long grass which she had plucked before she came to him. Even that, though it fluttered in the wind, had a strangely stiff air, as if it had become a part of that statue which but a moment since was a woman. Hilary stood gazing after this retreating figure, powerless to move, powerless to rouse in his mind any thought but one; and that was not a thought. It was knowledge – consciousness. He knew, he felt, that he dared not follow Fleta and address her as men address the women they love; he dared not woo her with the fever on his lips that burned there. And why? Not because of her royal birth, or her beauty, or her power. He knew not why – he could not understand himself. It was as though a spell were cast on him that held him silent and motionless.
When at last she was out of sight a sudden reaction took place. The whole burning force of the strong young man’s nature broke loose and raged wildly through his whole system; he no longer was capable of thought, he only felt the blood that rushed to his head and made his brain reel as though he had drunk strong wine. He suddenly became aware that he had aged, grown, become a new creature in these last moments of experience. He had called himself a man five minutes ago; but now he knew that when he had uttered those words, he was only a boy. Across a great gulf of feeling he looked back at the love that was in him when he had so spoken. Now his passion burned like a fire on the altar of life; every instant the flames grew stronger and mounted more fiercely to his inflamed brain.
The savage had burst forth. The savage untamed man, which smoulders within, and hides behind the cultivated faces of a gentle age. One strong touch on the chord of passion, and Hilary Estanol, a chivalric and courteous product of a refined time, knew himself to be a man, and knew that man to be a savage. A savage, full of desire, of personal longing, thinking of nothing but his own needs. And to Hilary this sudden starting forth of the nature within him seemed like a splendid unfolding. He remained standing, erect, strong, resolute. His seething mind hastily went over his whole position and Fleta’s. Everything suddenly bore a new, vivid, stirring aspect.
”This is a nest of conspirators!” he exclaimed to himself. ”That man, Ivan, is a conspirator or worse, else he would not hide here. What crowned head is it that he threatens? He is a criminal. I will discover his secret; I will rescue Fleta from him; by the strength of my love I will win her love from him; I will make her my own. Come, I must calm myself – I must be sober, for I have to find out the meaning of this mysterious place.”
He walked slowly through the wood, trying to still the throbbing in his brain, to check the fierce pulsations of his heart and blood. He knew that now he needed all his instincts, all his natural intelligence, all his power of defence; for, in his present humour, he walked as an enemy to all men; by his new tide of feeling he had made every man his enemy. The young King Otto had a prior right to the Fleta whom he desired to make his own; King Otto was indeed his enemy. Ivan had her love; how bitterly did Hilary hate that priest! And Adine, the false Fleta – what was she but a mere tool of the priest’s, a creature used to baffle and blind him? She was the one most likely to trip his steps, for she defied even the knowledge which his love gave him of Fleta’s face!
He was full of energy and activity, and his blood desired to be stilled by action. He had quickly decided that he must immediately do two things: inspect the whole exterior of the house, so as to get some notion of what rooms were in it, and what their uses; and explore the outer circle of the grounds, to see if there was any difficulty about leaving them. As the latter task involved most exercise, he chose to undertake it first, and swiftly, with long strides, made his way through the woodlands in the direction where the boundaries must lie. It did not take him long to traverse a considerable distance; for he felt stronger than ever in his life before. He had been a delicate lad, now he knew himself to be a strong man, as if new blood ran in his veins. The moon was high in the heavens, it was nearly full, and its light was strong. By it he soon discovered that the strange place in which he was had a more cunning and effective defence than any high wall or iron barrier. It was surrounded by tangled virgin woodland growth, where, as it seemed, no man’s foot could have ever trodden.
Hilary found it hard to believe that such wild land existed within a drive of the city. But it was there, and there was no passing through it, unless he worked his way with a wood-axe, inch by inch, as men do when they make a clearing. Such a task was hopeless, even if he had the tools, for it was impossible to tell in what direction to move.
He returned at last, after many fruitless efforts; there seemed to be no vestige of a path. He had discovered the gate by which their entrance had been made; and discovered also that it was guarded. A figure moved slowly to and fro in the shadow of the trees; not with the air of one strolling for pleasure, but with the regular movements of a sentry. It was an unfamiliar figure, but dressed in the garb of the order.
Hilary went quietly along by the side of the path that led to the house. It was useless to waste more time on this investigation; quite clearly he was a prisoner. And it seemed to him equally clear that unless he could escape, no information would be of any use to him. He must be able to carry it to the city, where he would be free to take it to Fleta’s father, or even to other crowned heads in other countries, according to its nature. As he walked quietly on, revolving his position, he saw that the task he had set himself was n light one, even for a strong man possessed by love. These monks belonged to an extraordinarily powerful order, and were men of great ability.
Here he was, in the very heart of one of their secret centres, which was, presumably, political. Fleta and King Otto were under their influence. And they were magicians; very certain he felt that they knew some of Nature’s secrets, and had trained Fleta in her mysterious powers. And from this hidden and carefully guarded place he was determined to escape, taking with him its secret – and Fleta! Fleta, his love, his own, yet whom he had to win by his strength.
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