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CHAPTER XVII

 

OF THE REPORT WHICH EDWIN ARTHWAIT MADE TO HIS CHIEF, AND OF THE DELIBERATIONS OF THE BLACK LODGE THEREUPON; AND OF THE CONSPIRACIES THERE- BY CONCERTED; WITH A DISCOURSE UPON SORCERY

 

     "EXORDIUMATICALLY, deponent precateth otity orient exaudient, dole basilical's assumpt. Pragmatics, ex Ventro Genesiaco ad umbilicum Apocalypticum, determinated logomachoepy's nodal puncts, genethliacally benedict, eschatologically --- kakoglaphyrotopical! Ergmoiraetic, apert parthenorhododactylical, colophoned thanatoskianko-morphic!

 

 

Footnote Translation:

 

"Exordiumatically -- First                                                                       genethliaeally -- at first

deponent precateth -- I beg                                                                     benedict -- fortunate

otity -- hearing                                                                                        esehatologically -- later

orient -- increasingly                                                             kakoglaphyrotopical -- in a bad hole

exaudient -- favourable                                                                            erg -- work

dole basilical's -- a royal gift*s                                                                moiractic -- fatal

assumpt -- assumption                                                                           apert -- opened

Pregmatics -- Facts                                                                 parthenorhododactylical -- like the

ex ventro Genesiaco ad umbilicum                                                         rosy fingers of a maid

Apocalypticum -- from beginning                                                       colophoned -- closed

   to end                                                                                      tbanatoskiankomorphic -- in the

determinate -- mark                                                                                    shape of the valley of

                                                                                                                   the shadow

logomachoepy's -- (my) story's                                                                    of death

nodal puncts -- limits

 

 

     With these striking words the official Report of Douglas' chief commissioner began. It would be tedious to quote the 488 folio pages in full. Douglas himself did not read it; the transcript made by Vesquit of Abdul Bey's "inspiration," with a few [235] practical questions to the latter, told him all that he needed.

     Audience over, he dismissed Arthwait and his companion with orders to hold themselves in readiness for a renewal of the campaign.

     Douglas had many a moment of bitter contemplation; his hatred of Cyril Grey fed upon repulse; and it was evident that his assistants had met more than their match. He would have to act personally -- yet he feared to expose himself in open battle. His plan hitherto had been to bribe or dupe some of the jackal journalists of London to attack him; but Grey had not so much as troubled to bring libel actions.

     But he would not give in. He studied Vesquit's transcripts attentively, and with indecision. He did not know how far to trust the oracle, and he did not understand how Vesquit had come to die, since on that point even Arthwait had been silent. The demons whom he consulted were emphatic in favour of the document, but failed to explain how the fortress was to be reduced from the inside.

     He was clear in his mind as to the nature of Grey's operation; he saw perfectly that Lisa herself was the weak point in it; but he did not see how to get at her.

     He continued in his bitter mood until the early hours, and he was interrupted by the return of his wife from her miserable night's trudging. She put two francs on the table without a single word as soon as she entered.

     "Is that all?" snarled Douglas. "You ought to be getting fives again now spring's coming. Though you're not as pretty as you were."

     He garnished this greeting with garlic of low abuse. Rarely to any other person did he use even mild oaths; he affected the grand manner; but he [236] knew that foulness of speech emphasized his wife's degradation. He had no need of the vile money that she earned; he had a thousand better means of buying whisky; but he drove her to the streets as no professional souteneur would have dared do. By extreme refinement of cruelty he never struck or kicked her, lest she should think he loved her. To him, she was a toy; a means of exercising his passion for torture; to her, he was the man she loved.

     Pitifully she pleaded that the cold rain of the night -- she was wet through -- had driven all Paris from the boulevard to the cafe; and she added an excuse for her unattractiveness which should have sent her husband to his pistol for very shame had a spark of manhood, or a memory of his mother, been alive within him.

     Instead, he promised to change all that the next time Dr. Balloch came to Paris.

     He had systematically degraded and humiliated her, corrupted her, branded her with infamy, for many a year; yet there was still in her a motion of revolt against the crime. But even as she made her gesture of repulsion, Douglas leapt to his feet, with the light of hell burning in his eyes. "I have it!" he shouted, "get to your straw, you stinking slut. And you may thank your stars that as you can't be ornamental, you're going to be useful."

     It was dawn before Douglas turned into bed, for his great idea brought with it a flood of imagination, and a million problems of detail. The servant girl was already half dressed for the day's work; and he made her fetch him a final whisky before he slept.

     Late in the following afternoon he woke, and sent Cremers, whom he had turned into a drudge, to telegraph to Balloch to come over, and to bring her friend Butcher to see him.

     Douglas had previously refused to see this man, [237] who was a Chicago semi-tough. He ran a fake Rosicrucian society in America, and thought that Douglas could give him power over the elusive dollar. But Douglas had found no use for him; he rather insisted on respectability in his neophytes; it was only in the higher grades that one found the disreputable. It was an obvious point of policy. But Douglas had now remembered one little fact about this person; he fitted the Great Idea so nicely that his presence in Paris seemed as apt as an answer to prayer.

     It was a rare, if doubtful, privilege to visit Douglas in his home. He never allowed the visit of any but those high in his confidence; the locality was hardly inspiring to an inquiring duchess. He had two other places in Paris, which he used for two types of interviewer; for although he discouraged knowledge of his authority in the Black Lodge, he did a good deal of the fishing himself, especially with rich or highly-placed people. For his subordinates had sticky fingers.

     One of these places was a discreet apartment in the very best quarter of Paris. Here he was the Scottish Nobleman of the Old School. The decorations were rich but not gaudy; even the ancestors were not overdone. The place of honour was occupied by Rob Roy's claymore, alleged. One of his claims was that the Highland Cateran was his ancestor, owing to a liason with a fairy. Another claim was that he himself was James IV of Scotland, that he had survived the Battle of Flodden Field, become an adept, and immortal. Despite what to a profane mind might seem the incompatibility of these two legends -- to say nothing of the improbability of either -- they were greedily swallowed by the Theosophist section of his following.

     In this apartment he received the credulous type of person who is impressed by rank; and no man [238] could play the part of stateliness better than this old reprobate.

     His other place was of the hermit's cell model, a tiny cottage with its well-kept garden; such abound all over Paris in the most unexpected spots.

     He actually imposed upon the old lady who kept this house for him. Here he was the simple old man of utter holiness, the lonely recluse, the saintly anchorite, his only food bruised herbs or pulse, his only drink the same as quenched the thirst of Father Adam. His long absences from this sacrosanct abode were explained by the fact of his absorption in trance, in which he was supposed to indulge underground. Of course he only visited the place when he had to receive a certain type of  visitor, that loftier type which has enough rank and wealth to know that they are not necessary to a search after Truth, and is impressed by simplicity and saintliness.

     It was at the former address that the Count received Mr. Butcher. He was dressed in severe and refined broadcloth, with the rosette of the Legion of Honour -- to which he was well entitled -- in his buttonhole.

     In presence of this splendour the American was ill at ease; but Douglas knew how to make a man his own by giving him a good conceit of himself.

     "I am proud to meet you, Mr. Butcher," he began, affably. "May I beg of you to take the trouble to be seated! The chair is worthy of you," he added, with a smile; "it was at one time the property of Frederick the Great."

     The servant, who was dressed as a Highland Gillie in gala costume, offered cigars and whisky.

     "Say, this is sure some whisky, Count! This is where I fall off the wagon, one time, John. You watch my batting average!" observed Mr. Butcher, settling himself by placing his legs upon the table. [239]

     "It is from the private stock of the Duke of Argyll," returned Douglas. "And you, Mr. Butcher? I knew a Count Butcher many years ago. You are a relation?"

     Mr. Butcher had only the vaguest notion as to his ancestry. His mother had broken down under cross-examination.

     "Search me!" he replied, biting the end off his cigar, and  spitting it out. "We Rosicrucians are out for the Hundred Years Club Dope, and the Long Green Stone; we should worry. We're short on ancestors in Illinois."

     "But these matters are important in magic," urged Douglas. "Heredity goes for much. I should be glad indeed to hear that you were one of the Dorsetshire Butchers, for example, or even the Shropshire branch. In both families second sight is an appanage."

     Here the conversation was interrupted by the gillie. "I crave your pardon, my lord," he said, bowing; "but his Grace the Duke of Hants is at the door to beg your aid in a most urgent matter which concerns his family honour."

     "I am engaged," said Douglas. " He may write." The man withdrew with a solemn bow.

     "I must apologize for this disturbance," continued Douglas. "The importunity of one's clients is exceedingly distressing. It is one of our penalties. I venture to suppose that you are yourself much annoyed in similar ways.

     Butcher would have liked to boast that J. P. Morgan was always trying to borrow money from him, but he dared not attempt to bluff his host. Nor did he suspect that Douglas was himself engaged in that diverting and profitable pastime.

     "To come to business," went on Douglas, eyeing his guest narrowly, and assuring himself that his [240] scheme had borne fruit in due season, "What is it that you require of me? Frankly, I like you; and I have long admired your noble career. All that I can do for you -- in -- honour -- pray count it done!"

     "Why, Count," said Mr. Butcher, spitting on the floor; "Buttinsky's in Kalamazoo. But to come down to brass tacks, I guess I'd like to sit into the game."

     "I pray you to excuse me," replied Douglas, "but my long residence in Paris has almost deprived me of the comprehension of my mother tongue. Could you explain yourself further?"

     "Why, this Black Lodge stunt, Count. It's a humdinger. I guess it's a hell of a favour, but I see a dollar at the end of it, and old Doc. Butcher buys a one-way ticket."

     Douglas grew portentous. "Are you aware of what you ask?" he thundered. "Do you understand that the ineffable and Sacrosanct Arcanum is not to be touched by profane hands? Must I inform you that Those who may not be named are even now at the Gate of the Abyss, whetting their fangs upon the Cubical Stone of the Unutterable? Oh ye magistral ministrants of the Shrine of the Unspeakable Abomination! Hear ye the Word of Blasphemy!" He spoke rapidly and thickly in a tongue unknown to Butcher, who became alarmed, and even took his legs off the table.

     "Say!" he cried. "Have a heart! Can the rough dope, Count! This is a straight proposition, honest to God!"

     "I am already aware of your sincerity," answered the other. "But infinite courage is required to confront those formidable Entities that lie in wait for the seeker even at the first Portal of the Descending Staircase!"

     "Oh, I'm wise to Old Dog Cerberus. Ish [241] Kabibble. Gimme an upper berth in the Chicawgo, Saint Lewis, and Hell Limited, if it busts the roll. Do you get me, Steve?"

     "I understand you to say that you persist in your application."

     "Sure. Andrew P. Satan for mine."

     "I shall be pleased to place your name before the Watchers of the Gate."

     "How deep do I have to dig?"

     "Dig? I did not quite catch your remark."

     "In the wad. Weigh the dough! What does it set me back? Me for the bread-line?"

     "The initiation fee is one thousand francs."

     "I guess I can skin that off without having to eat at Childs."

     "You will remit the amount to the Comptroller of my Privy Purse. Here is the address. Now be so good as to sign the preliminary application-form."

     They went over to the bureau (Douglas was prepared to derive it from the library of Louis XIV), on which lay a private letter from the Kaiser, if one might believe the embossed arms and address, and a note asking President Poincare to dinner, "quite informally, my dear friend," which Butcher could not fail to see. The preliminary application form was a document which might have served for an exceptionally solemn treaty. But Douglas was above the charlatanism of requiring a signature in blood: Butcher signed it with an ordinary fountain pen.

     "And now, Mr. Butcher," said Douglas, "I will ask you in your turn to render me a small service."

     "Bat it up!" said Mr. Butcher. "I would buy an Illustrated Edition of O. Henry in nineteen parts."

     Douglas did not know that Americans dread book agents more than rattlesnakes; but he gathered [242] that his guest would acquiesce in any reasonable suggestion.

     "I am informed that you are -- or were -- a Priest of the Roman Church.

     "Peter is my middle name," admitted the 'Rosicrucian,' "and that's no jolly."

     "But -- apart from questions of nomenclature for the moment, if you will pardon me -- you are a priest of the Roman Church?"

     "Yep: I took a chance on Pop Dago Benedict. But it's a con game; I'm from Missouri. Four-flushing gold brick merchants! Believe me, some bull! I took it like playing three days in Bumville. Them boobs got my goat for fair, babe. No pipe!"

     "You were interdicted in consequence of some scandal?"

     "I ran a sporting house on the side, and I guess they endorsed my license for speeding."

     "Your Bishop took umbrage at some business activity which he judged incompatible with your vows?"

     "Like Kelly did."

     "Oh, Bishop Kelly. Far too severe a disciplinarian, in my judgment. But you are still a priest? Your orders are still valid? A baptism or a marriage performed by you would hold good?"

     "It's a cinch. The Hallelujah Guarantee and Trust Company, St. Paul. Offices in the James D. Athanasius Building."

     "Then, sir, I shall ask of you the favour to hold yourself in readiness to baptize two persons at nine of the evening precisely, the day after to-morrow. That ceremony will be followed by another, in which you will marry them."

     "I swan."

     "I may rely on your good offices?"

     "I'll come in a wheelbarrow." [243]

     "Suit yourself, Mr. Butcher, as to the mode of transit; but pray be careful to attend punctually, and in canonical costume."

     "I'll dig the biretta out of the ice-box."

     After a further exchange of courtesies the new disciple took his leave.

     The same evening witnessed a very different interview.

     Lord Antony Bowling was being eentertained at dinner by Simon Iff, and their conversation turned upon the favourite subject of the old mystic -- the Way of the Tao.

     "In view of what you have been saying about the necessity of dealing with mediums on their own ground," remarked the host, "let me tell you of a paradox in magick. Do you remember a certain chapter in the Bible which tells one, almost in consecutive verses, firstly to answer a fool according to his folly, and secondly, not so to answer him? This is the Scriptural version of a truth which we phrase otherwise. There are two ways of dealing with an opponent; one by beating him on his own ground, the other by withdrawing to a higher plane. You can fight fire with fire, or you can fight fire with water.

     "It is, roughly speaking, legitimate magick to resolve a difficult situation in either of these two ways. Alter it, or withdraw to higher ground. The black magician, or as I prefer to call him, sorcerer, for the word magick should not be profaned, invariably withdraws to lower planes. Let us seek an analogy in the perfectly concrete case of the bank cashier.

     "This gentleman, we will assume, finds his salary inadequate to his outgoings. Now he may economize, that is, withdraw himself to a kind of life where money is no longer needed in such quantity, or he [244] may devote himself day and night to his business, and so increase his salary. But there is no third course open to a man of self-respect. The sorcerer type of man appeals to lower planes of money-making. He begins by gambling; beaten there, he resorts to the still viler means of embezzlement; perhaps, finally, he attempts to cover his thefts by murdering his mother for the insurance money.

     "Notice how, as his plane becomes debased, his fears grow greater. At first, he is merely annoyed about his creditors; in the next stage, he fears being sharped by his fellow-gamblers; then, it is the police who loom terrible in his mind; and lastly the grim form of the executioner threatens him."

     "Very nicely Hogarthed," said Lord Antony. "Reminds me of how the habit of lying degenerates into unintelligible stupidity. We had a case in the War Office last month, a matter of supplying certain furs. As you know, the seal furnishes a valuable fur. Less valuable, though superficially similar, is that of the rabbit. Now in trade, so it appears, it is impolitic to say rabbit, which sounds cheap and nasty, so the Scriptural equivalent, coney, is employed, thus combining Piety with Profit. Having caught your coney, you proceed to cook him, until he resembles seal. So you have a dyed rabbit-skin, and you call it seal coney. But there are by-ways that stray further yet from the narrow lane of truth. The increasing demand for rabbits has reduced the profit on seal coney, and it becomes desirable to find a cheaper substitute. Reckless of the susceptibilities of the ancient Egyptians, this is found in that domesticated representative of the lion family which consoles our spinsters. Having disguised the skin as far as may be, they next disguise the name; some buyer must be made to pay the price of seal coney, and think that he is getting it; so 'cat' becomes `trade seal coney' [245] -- and unless one has the whole story there is no possibility of derivation. The lie has become mere misnomer."

     "It is the general case of Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy," returned Simon Iff. "I had an amusing example the other day in an article that I wrote for the Review -- rather prudish people. My little essay ended: `So Science offers her virgin head to the caress of Magick.' The editor thought `virgin' rather a `suggestive' word, and replaced it by 'maiden'."

     "You remind me of a curate we had over at Grimthorpe Ambrose. 'Leg' has for many years been a not quite proper word; when the terrible necessity of referring to it arose, the polite ass replaced it by 'limb.'

     "The refined sensibility of our curate perceived the indelicacy of saying 'limb,' since every one knew that it meant 'leg'; so he wrapped it up in the decent obscurity of the Latin language, and declined to play croquet one afternoon on the ground that, the day before, in visiting old Mrs. Postlethwaite, he had severely strained his member."

     "The wicked fall into the pit that they have digged," said Iff. "All this applies to the question of magick. It is a question of debasing coinage. I have great sympathy with the ascetics of India and their monkish imitators in Europe. They held spiritual gifts to be of supreme value, and devoted their lower powers to the development of the higher. Of course mistakes were made; the principle was carried too far; they were silly enough to injure their lower powers by undue fasting, flagellation, and even mutilation. They got the false idea that the body was an enemy, whereas it is a servant -- the only servant available. But the idea was right; they wanted to exchange dross for gold. Now the sorcerer [246] offers his gold for dross, tries to exchange his highest powers for money or the gratification of envy or revenge. The Christian Scientist, absurdly so-called, is a sorcerer of the basest type, for he devotes the whole wealth of religion to the securing of his bodily health. It is somewhat stupid, too, as his main claim is that the body is only an illusion!"

     "Am I right in suggesting that ordinary life is a mean between these extremes, that the noble man devotes his material wealth to lofty ends, the advancement of science, or art, or some such true ideal; and that the base man does the opposite by concentrating all his abilities on the amassing of wealth?"

     "Exactly; that is the real distinction between the artist and the bourgeois, or, if you prefer it, between the gentleman and the cad. Money, and the things money can buy, have no value, for there is no question of creation, but only of exchange. Houses, lands, gold, jewels, even existing works of art, may be tossed about from one hand to another; they are so, constantly. But neither you nor I can write a sonnet; and what we have, our appreciation of art, we did not buy. We inherited the germ of it, and we developed it by the sweat of our brows. The possession of money helped us, but only by giving us time and opportunity and the means of travel. Anyhow, the principle is clear; one must sacrifice the lower to the higher, and, as the Greeks did with their oxen, one must fatten and bedeck the lower, so that it may be the worthier offering."

     "And what happens when you go on the other tack?"

     "When you trade your gold for pewter you impoverish yourself. The sorcerer sells his soul for money; spends the money, and finds he has nothing else to sell. Have you noticed that Christian Scientists [247] are hardly ever in robust health? They have given up their spiritual forces for a quite imaginary standard of well-being; and those forces, which were supporting the body quite well enough without their stupid interference, are debilitated and frittered away. I pray daily for a great war, that may root out the coward fear of death and poverty in the minds of these degenerate wretches. Death should be, as it used to be in the middle ages, even, and yet more in pagan times, the fit reward and climax of a life well spent in risking it for noble causes; and poverty should be a holy and blessed state, worthy of the highest minds and the happiest, and of them alone.

     "To return to our sheep -- I mean our sorcerer. He has not much against him to begin with, but he chooses to trade his sword for gold. The barbarian, having the sword, naturally uses it to recover the gold. In other words, the devil, having bought the soul, regains the price, for the sorcerer spends it in the devil's service. The next stage is that the sorcerer resorts to crime, declares war on all humanity. He uses vulgar means to attain his ends, and the price may be his liberty. Ultimately, he may lose life itself in some last desperate effort to  retrieve all at a blow. When I was young and had less experience, I had many a fight with sorcerers; and it was always the end of the fight when Mr. Sorcerer broke the law. He was no longer fighting me, but the consolidated will of humanity; and he had no time to attack me when he was busy building breakwaters.

     "And that reminds me. We have a young friend at bay -- with the worst pack of devils in the world at him. I wonder if I have done wrong to leave him so much to himself. But I wanted the boy to gain all the laurels; he's young enough to like them."

     "I think I know who you mean," said Lord Antony, smiling; "and I don't think you need be [248] very much afraid. I never saw any one much better fitted to take care of himself."

     "For all that, he's in urgent danger at this very moment. He has incurred the greatest possible risk; he has gained a victory. But it has been only a clash of outposts; the enemy is coming up now, horse, foot, and artillery, with lust of revenge and desperate fear to enflame the original hatred; and, unfortunately, the boy made some fundamental errors in his plan of campaign."

     "Ah, well, Napoleon did that. Jena was the result of his own blundering miscalculations; so, to a certain extent, was Austerlitz. Don't fret! The bigger they are, the harder they fall, as my father's pet pugilist used to say. And now I must run away; there is a seance with a lady who materializes demon slugs. Do not forget to inscribe my name among the martyrs!"