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I propose to summarize briefly my adventures in America. This chapter should form a framework into which may be fitted the special accounts of my activity. My worst encounter was with the New York World which had distinguished itself by printing Harry Kemp's rubbish about my magical exploits. The editor, a genial Irishman — remarkable precisely for being half educated neither more nor less correct to eight places of decimals — observing that Kemp's statements involved numerous physical impossibilities took him to a notary and made him swear to their truth. I have told elsewhere how it came to be written. Hearing of my arrival Kemp hurried to implore me not to give him away. I contemptuously agreed to save his face. Of course, I could not admit the truth of such asinine balderdash, so said that by magical power I had caused him to see what was not, as indeed in a certain sense I had done.
Cosegrave sent a sob sister to interview me on my arrival. She pestered me with a string of foolish questions, such as “What is your opinion of America?” I was insulted. What did she take me for that I should pronounce judgment on a continent after twenty-four hours? I replied, nevertheless, “I regard America as the hope of the planet — the white hope.” About this time Jack Johnson was hors concours. White hope had become a slang phrase for a challenger without a chance. Of course she did not see the joke. I became so weary of the woman's stupidity that she was bound to make a hopeless hash of what I had said. I told her to try something easier. Reporting a dog-fight would have been about her mark. She went off in a huff, a sagging, shapeless suet pudding. He then sent Henry Hall, who had married a French wife and learnt courtesy. He had read a good deal of good stuff and possessed natural intelligence. I found him charming. He confirmed my diagnosis of W. T. Stead, whom he interviewed. In walking down the street, Stead broke off every minute or two to indulge in a lustful description of some passing flapper and slobber how he would like to flagellate her. Hall wrote a clever and accurate article about the evocation of Bartzabel.
I dined at Cosegrave's house one night. He had asked Evangeline Adams to meet me as being a famous astrologer. The meeting led to a lengthy association. She wanted me to write a book on astrology for her. The plan failed through her persistent efforts to cheat me out of the profits, and her obstinate ignorance of the elementary facts of nature combined with an unconquerable antagonism to the principles of applying common sense to the science.
I learned a good deal, nevertheless. The work kept me concentrated on the subject. At this time, it was my invariable practice to judge from the personal appearance of every stranger I met the sign rising at his birth. Having made up my mind, I would ask him to tell me either the hour or the day of his birth. I could then calculate the missing day as thus: Suppose I judge my man to have Libra in the ascendant and he tells me his birthday is October 1st. When the sun is in 5° or 6° Libra, I can tell him he was born at sunrise, within a limit of error of about two hours. Alternatively, should he say, “I was born at midnight”, I can give his birthday to within a fortnight or so of Christmas. I tabulated my results over a considerable period and found that I was right in a little over two cases in three. Where I was wrong, I found that either the sign I had chosen for his ascendant was that occupied by his sun, which in some people determines the personal appearance more effectively than the ascendant, or else, in erecting his horoscope I found the rising sign occupied by planets whose nature modified the sign so that it could be mistaken for the one I had picked out.
(For instance, a person with Aries rising with the moon and Jupiter conjoined on the cusp. The aggressive martial characteristics of the sign would be toned down by their impelling influence. I might, therefore, state his ascendant as Sagittarius or even Pisces.)
There were, of course, a few cases in which I came a complete cropper, but the cause of this was almost always an instinctive personal antipathy to the individual which confused my judgment. By the most severe standards I may claim fairly to have been correct in not less than eighty per cent. of the cases and considering the chance of getting right at random, I consider it demonstrated beyond dispute that a real relation exists between the personal appearance and the sign rising at birth.
Lest any reader should seek to emulate these efforts and meet with disappointment, let me warn him of two common factors of failure:
1. People of unfamiliar races manifest the astrological appearance of their ethnological branch and this masks that due to their nativity. Experience enables one to penetrate the superficial indication.
2. The skill required to judge this matter develops with surprising speed as soon as a certain point has been reached. It is best to proceed systematically by asking oneself, first of all, to what element the examinee belongs. It is then simple to discriminate between the three possible signs. One might mistake Taurus and Scorpio, Gemini and Sagittarius, but the three signs of any given element are always distinguishable as easily as a child, an adult and an old man.
Some signs are almost unmistakable from the first. But others are so weak in character that their influence is rarely found unmodified by planetary considerations. One must further remark that each sign governs two main
types — the active and the passive. Thus Aries: the high brows, long face, aquiline nose, tall thin muscular figure, shows the fiery and martial qualities of the sign. But there is an evil and averse counterpart corresponding to the ovine nature. We have the gross, hooked, pendulous proboscis; the thick, flabby, moist lips; the patient stupid eyes, and timid, hunted gait of the bad type of Jew.
Thanks to the resolute refusal of even the educated astrologer to adopt scientific methods of study, their contemptuous indifference to the attitude of the recognized sciences towards them, and their adhesion to tradition, in the right interpretation of which they seek authority, rather than in the indications of critically analysed experience, the general ignorance of the subject is as great as ever.
I propose to demonstrate once for all the truth of the proposition, that the aspect of the heavens at the time of birth is connected with the observed characteristics of the native by collecting a large number of photographs, full face and profile for each subject, and classifying them according to the horoscope. I will thus have twelve sets, one for each sign ascending, twelve showing the possible positions of the sun. I should also examine the assertion that people with Mars rising have some scar or other abnormality on the face, by collecting the photographs of such people. Again, Saturn in the ascendant is said to give a melancholy cast to the countenance.
Should it, then, appear that one hundred Aries men showed a marked and characteristic difference from one hundred Taurus men, and so on through the zodiac, physicists would be hard put to it to deny some nexus. The apparatus criticus should, of course, be very perfect. Complications of the ascendant by the presence of planets must be considered separately. Their failure to manifest the characteristic appearance of the sign ought not to be considered fatal to the theory.
Where the history of the subject is available it would furnish material for much further research. We would discover, for instance, whether the presence of Saturn in the seventh house invariably concurred with matrimonial misfortune, or in the tenth with rapid rise of fortunes followed by a sudden crash as in the case of Napoleon, Oscar Wilde, Woodrow Wilson, Lord Northcliffe and several private cases in my own collection. The labour required for this research would be enormous, but the bulk of it would be done by ordinary clerks. And as for the preliminary difficulty of collecting material, any great newspaper could carry out the scheme easily enough. It would of course be necessary to publish an explanation of the proposal with a questionnaire covering the principal points, and asking for good photographs to be sent with the filled up form.
One final remark. I found myself able, as my experience increased, to divine not only the rising sign and the position of the sun, but both points
together. Accordingly, on several occasions, I succeeded in telling a man I had never seen before both the house and the day of his birth. I could also judge, now and then, such matters as the angular distance between Sol and Luna, or the aspects and the zodiacal position of other planets.
The psychological reactions to these demonstrations were most interesting. Some people were quite unaffected by the most brilliant successes. Some were scared half out of their wits, such as they had. Others again fell prostrate in awed admiration and jumped from the facts to the fancy that I must be a Mahatma able to juggle with the stars in their courses if the wind took me. Only a small percentage showed intelligent interest. I made a great impression on Frank Crowninshield, editor of Vanity Fair. I was in form that night and told everyone exactly right. He realized it could not be guessing. The chances against me ran into billions.
I hung about New York all winter trying to get a foothold. My effort to countermine German intrigue was my worst handicap, in the case of the best people. But as to my literary career, I was no snowflake in hell. Nobody knew my name, bar the educated rari nantes in gurgito vasto. Nobody would look at my work, either in a periodical form or volume.
I shall tell later of my grotesque failure to make good as a Master of Magick. The people I met knew nothing and thought they knew everything, and whatever scraps of information they had, they had all wrong.
I took a week off in March to go to Philadelphia, where the great Billy Sunday was conducting a revival. The immense notoriety of the man, and the incompatibility of the accounts which my queries elicited, determined me, like the man in the gospel, to hear and see for myself. I ran the fox to earth in a vast wooden tabernacle; I forget what won by a narrow margin on points; and when he came to New York where they had built a barn bigger than the Albert Hall for the purpose, he could not even get an audience. Beelzebub had the best of every round. Shrewd to the last, he retired from the ring and left Lucifer with the laurels. He had had a great time and had made his pile. I suppose, at this hour, he is sitting under his own vine and fig tree, meditating with cynical enjoyment the Shakespearean aphorism, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” and on Sundays that sublime saying of the Saviour — who had saved him if he had never saved anyone else — “Ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
All this time, I had been getting into deeper water financially. I had intended, when I left England, to conclude my special business in new York within a fortnight, to make a little splash in any case, and to get home in a month on the outside. What kept me, was that in the first week I sold over one hundred pounds' worth of first editions to a prominent collector. He then expressed a wish to possess a complete set of my works an also two or three hundred manuscripts. This should have meant at least five thousand
dollars. It sounded good to me; since the war nobody in England remembered the existence of such a thing as poetry. So I cabled for the stuff and hung around, with the result that my political opportunity came along. When the books arrived from England, the collector changed his mind and only bought a small proportion of the consignment. This left me flat, and besides, I was getting into my stride in countermining M?nsterberg. So I stagnated in New York, getting lower in the water every day.
I was nearly down and out, when I got an introduction to the editor of Vanity Fair, a perfectly charming man, who reminded me not a little of Austin Harrison. He was, however, extremely intelligent and understood his business thoroughly. In a couple of years he had pulled the paper up from nothing to one quarter of a million. He treated me, through some inexplicable misunderstanding, as a human being and asked me to write for him.
I began with an account of a baseball game as seen by a professor from the University of Peking. This was followed up by a series of Hokku. This is a Japanese verse form. It contains three lines totalling seventeen syllables. I modified this by introducing regular meter, the first line dactyl-spondee, the second line spondee-dactyl-spondee, and the third dactyl-spondee. A Hokku must contain a very definite finely chiselled idea or rather, chain of ideas. Such is the strict rule, but one is allowed a certain degree of latitude.
The first line announces the subject of the meditation; the second the moral reflection suggested thereby, and the third some epigrammatic commentary. For instance:
<blockquote> <HTML><blockquote> > I am a petal\\ > Darkling, lost on the river\\ > Being -- Ilusion. </blockquote>
</blockquote></HTML> We analyse this as follows: In saying “I am” one implies that one is only a detached derelict in the darkness of ignorance, whose essential quality is the illusion of existence.
I wrote a double Hokku on the Hokku itself. Here it is:
<blockquote> <HTML><blockquote> > Catch me, caress me,\\ > Crush me! Gather a dewdrop ---\\ > Star to a system! </blockquote>
<blockquote> <HTML><blockquote> > God in an atom!\\ > Comets revel around it ---\\ > That is a Hokku. </blockquote>
I became a frequent contributor to Vanity Fair. I can never be sufficiently grateful to Frank Crowinshield for his kindness and patience. My association with him is the one uniformly pleasant experience of dealing with editors that I can quote. He always took pains to make the most of his material. If a contribution did not suit him, he did not reject it without a word of explanation. He talked it over, and suggested modifications. I thus found out how to suit his taste without injuring my self-respect. Most editors drive away their best contributors by treating them like street beggars and leave them bewildered at the rejection. Others, again, haggle over the terms and as often as not delay or evade payment. They then wonder why they fail to hit the public taste. It soon goes around that getting a cheque from so-and-so is like fishing for sharks with a trout rod. The editor is tacitly boycotted.
This and my work with Evangeline Adams kept me going through the summer. I had a glorious time, what with love and sea bathing. I wrote a good deal of poetry; in particular “The Golden Rose”, and a set of lyrics, mostly sonnets to Hilarion, who appears later, in “the Urn”, as “the Cat Officer”. This woman possessed a unique atmosphere. I can only describe it as “sweetness long drawn out”. This translated itself in terms of rhythm. I quote a typical sonnet:
IN THE RED ROOM OF ROSE CROIX
<blockquote> > The bleeding gate of God unveils its rose;\\ > The cavernous West swallows the dragon Sun:\\ > Earth's darkness broods on dissolution,\\ > A mother-vulture, nested on Repose.\\ > Ah then, what grace within our girdle glows,\\ > To garb thy glee-gilt heart, Hilarion,\\ > An Alpenbluehn on our star-crested snows. </blockquote>
<blockquote> > O scarlet flower, smear honey on the thigh\\ > Of this shy bee, that sucks thy sweetness dry,\\ > O bower of sunset, bring me to thy sleep\\ > Wherein move dreams stained purple with perfumes,\\ > Whose birds of Paradise, on Punic plumes,\\ > Declare dooms undecipherably deep. </blockquote>
Compare this with any previous sonnet of mine and notice the lusciousness of the lines.
I also wrote a one-act play The Saviour. The main idea of this had been in my mind for a long while as a presentation of irony. The council of a city in the extremity of despair invoke a long-expected saviour. He appears to their rapturous relief but turns out to be the enemy they feared in his most
frightful form. I elaborated this theme by introducing episodes where they are given a chance to escape. They throw this away for the sake of the saviour. The poignancy is further increased by various vicissitudes. The council is guided by a fool whom they ignore, being the only character with a grain of common sense, and by a prophet whose insane purpose is to deliver the city to destruction. By his inspired advice, the council are lured into one disastrous folly after another, and when the catastrophe occurs the prophet throws off the mask and bloats over the ruin he has wrought.
This play was accepted by Morris Brown but as bad luck would have it, war conditions obliged him to close his theatre before it could be produced. I published it in The International in March 1918, but only after a struggle with my lawyer, who was seriously alarmed lest Washington should think the cap fitted and suppress the number. The play being written three years earlier, and there being not the slightest allusion to or analogy with current events, his protest showed how dire a reign of terror had been established by the megalomaniac in the White House and his brutal and thick-headed bravo, Burleson.
On October 6th, I left New York for a trip round the coast. I wanted to see the San Francisco exhibition, and I wanted to get first-hand facts about the attitude of the people, outside the Wall Street machine, to the war. With this I combined a honeymoon with Hilarion; though the sky was cloudy and windy, she popped in and out all the time, having decided to spice the romance and adventure by taking her husband in tow.
My first stop was Detroit, where Parke Davis were charming and showed me over their wonderful chemical works. They had installed countless and ingenious devices for conduction the processes involved in manufacture by machinery. Many of these produced effects of exquisite beauty of a land till then dreamed of in my philosophy. A great mass of pills in a highly polished and rapidly revolving receiver was infinitely fascinating to watch. The spheres tumbled over each other with a rhythmical rise and fall in a rhythm which sang to the soul.
They were kind enough to interest themselves in my researches in Anhalonium Lewinii and made me some special preparations on the lines indicated by my experience which proved greatly superior to previous preparations.
In Chicago, I met Paul Carus, who received me royally and showed me the city. The man had always interested me as being widely learned, yet understanding so little. After meeting him, I decided that I liked him for it. He was a big-hearted, simple-minded creature, with a certain childlike vision, by the light of which he judged the external world, a little like the White Knight in Alice!
I confess to dislike Chicago. It resembles New York more than its citizens would like to admit, but lacks altogether the cosmopolitan and man-of-the-world atmosphere of Gotham. It gives the impression of being a pure machine. Its artistic and cultured side shares the deadness of the rest. It compares with New York rather as Manchester with London.
I called on Narnet Munroe, described in the charge sheet as a poetess. She edits a periodical called Poetry. I am still not sure if she knew my name and my work, but she showed no interest whatever! She was loaded to the gunwhale with a cargo of conceit. She was the standard of perfection by which Milton and Keats might be measured in terms of their inferiority to her. Incidentally these two were bracketed zero. The first article of her faith was that rhythm and rime were incompatible with poetry. Her creed contained many similar dogmas, all fixed with bigoted intolerance. I got away from this dessicated spinster and her dreary drone with alacrity.
I proceeded westward.
<blockquote> <HTML><blockquote> > As I came through the desert, thus it was.\\ > As I came through the desert ... </blockquote>
</blockquote></HTML> Chicago is the forlorn outpost of civilized man. Every mile beyond marks a lower rung on the ladder of evolution. St Paul and Minneapolis are merely magnified markets always open. There is no life of any kind outside business. I suppose that poor damned souls are sweating all they know to get out somehow, somewhere.
West of the twin cities, even towns become rarer and each is more transient and inhuman than the last. The vastness of nature and the stupendous strength of her elemental forces have cried in vain. They move no man to wonder or admiration. He goes about his ant-like work with hurrying intentness, incapable of seeing or hearing anything not directly bearing on the problems that preoccupy him. Nobody reads, nobody thinks. When anyone does, they make short work of him. Not until one crosses the Rockies is there a semblance of resurrection. The coast, in touch with the Pacific archipelago and Asia, has caught a little of their culture.
I was warmly welcomed in Vancouver by my “Son”, who had established a large and increasing Lodge of O.T.O. They had made with their own hands admirably effective furniture and ornaments, and they had been splendidly drilled in the Rituals. I regretted the necessity of going on so soon.
I travelled by sea via Victoria to Seattle. My principal observation is that the inhabitants of the Pacific coast have almost everything in common; original racial differences seem to matter little; I suppose because the great distance from the base makes them feel that they have burnt their boats. It would be quite impossible to distinguish a British Columbian from a
Californian, while, on the other hand, the people of the coast differ very widely from anyone east of the Rockies. The point is important. The common psychology and common interests of the coast tend to unite them as against the transmontane tribes. The divergence of economic aims widens yearly. It seems certain that a time will come when the antagonisms of their neighbours will reach a climax. Few English, even those who have travelled in the States, have any real grasp of the geography. West of St Paul only Denver and Salt Lake City boast over a hundred thousand inhabitants in all that weary wilderness. One thinks of Chicago as the capital of the Middle West, as if it were half way across. In fact the distance of the two coasts is something like four to one. The political link which joins the coast with the Middle West is very much too long to be natural; it would have snapped long ago, but for the idealistic fancies about unity. They will have to yield to the persistent hammering of fact. Secession is certain, sooner or later, but the conditions are so peculiar that to forecast its form would be an insolence to fate.
The Middle West is predominantly Teutonic and Scandinavian. I found little overt sympathy with Germany for all that. Still less, any impulse to show active sympathy. But as for going into the fight on our side, the suggestion outraged elementary common sense. One prominent Kansas paper had a long editorial, angrily refusing sympathy with the ideas of “those fools down east” and expressing the hope that an air-raid on New York would teach them a much needed lesson. It was argued with the utmost vehemence that the Middle West was independent of the east. They refused to admit for a moment that their prosperity as producers could be imperilled by the calamities of their transport agents and customers.
On the coast, this hard, cold-blooded selfishness was tempered by the climate. I met much superficial sympathy with both sides. But there was a universal agreement to refuse to judge the rights and wrongs of the war. It was Europe's business and nobody else's. It would be a crime, a blunder and stark treason to the constitution for America to take a hand.
Since my last visit San Francisco had been rebuilt. The old charm had vanished completely. It had become a regular fellow. The earthquake had swallowed up romance, and the fire burnt up the soul of the city to ashes. The phoenix had perished and from the cinders had arisen a turkey buzzard.
I hurried south, stopping off at Santa Cruz, to see the famous big trees. I snatched a meal in the town and walked out in the gloaming. My sweetheart was waiting for me in the dusk just beyond the town limits. “How glad I am you have come,” she whispered. “Let us walk together to the grove. You shall sleep on my bosom all night, beneath the shadow of the giant sentinel whose spear points salute the stars.” My sweetheart wove herself
about me, an intoxicating ambience. Drunk with delight I strode through the silence. It must have been sheer luck that I found the grove, for one cannot see it from a distance, at least on a dark night. But I walked straight to the clump and threw myself down dog-tired and happy beyond all whooping. I gazed awhile through the tangle of branches up to the stars. They closed. I slept.
At dawn, I woke refreshed, had breakfast in a cabin hard by and wandered back to the railway. I had had a perfect holiday from the Spirit of America! The fresh morning air became articulate and whispered a sound in my ear. Hear it is:
AT BIG TREES, SANTA CRUZ
<blockquote> > Night fell. I travelled through the cloven chasm\\ > ....To where the redwood's cloistered giant grove\\ > ....Sprung gothic and priapic; wonder wove\\ > God's glory, gathered in the Titan spasm\\ > Nature's parturient anguish. Murk pantasm\\ > ....Moving I seemed! I found the treasurer trove\\ > ....Of fire, and consecrated all to love,\\ > Smiting my soul within the protoplasm. </blockquote>
<blockquote> > Within that temple of the midnight sun\\ > I cried all night upon Hilarion!\\ > ....All night I willed, I loved, I wrought the spell\\ > That Merlin muttered low in Broceliaunde,\\ > Till over Santa Cruz the day star dawned.\\ > ....God should have heard me, had I cried from Hell! </blockquote>
I wandered on to Los Angeles, and, having been warned against the cinema crowd of cocaine-crazed, sexual lunatics, and the swarming maggots of near-occultists, I came through undamaged. I found a range of hills north of the city and had a marvellous day speeding from crest to crest. I was so exhilarated that walking would not serve my turn. I had to run! As I ran, this sonnet shaped itself in my spirit?
<blockquote> > I ran upon the ridges of the hill\\ > ....That from the North-guard watch Los Angeles.\\ > ....Now I life up my priestly hands to bless\\ > The Sun, from whose emblazoned cup God spills\\ > The wine to comfort all earth's infinite ills;\\ > ....The cordial of man's heart, whose dour distress\\ > ....Heals only in immaculate silence\\ > According as he knows, and love, and wills. </blockquote>
<blockquote> > Ay! Thought is grown a geyser-gush of flame\\ > Since those two hours this morning when you came,\\ > ....When, like a comet swirling to its sun,\\ > You strangled me in your Astarte's tress,\\ > And wove me into serpent silences.\\ > ....Upon your body's loom, Hilarion! </blockquote>
My outward journey ended at San Diego. Near the city is Point Loma where lived Katherine Tingley, who with William Q. Judge seceded from the Theosophical Society when Annie Besant snatched the reins. I knew nothing of the woman, but her refusal to accept the unscrupulous usurpation was in her favour, and a casual glance at her official organ had impressed me not unfavourably. I decided to see her and discuss the possibility of an alliance. To my amazement she refused to receive me when I called at the settlement. From the moment I entered the grounds I was aware of the most nauseating atmosphere that I had ever met magically. The suggestion was of a putrefying and entirely bloodless flesh, as if a cannibal had sucked out its life to the last drop and flung it away. Her disciples corresponded. They moved about limp and listless, corpse-pallid, with the eyes of dead fishes. I got out of the cesspool without wasting time, but even so I had to pay for my imprudence.
San Diego possessed one most attractive feature. It is within a short motor ride of the frontier of Mexico. One comes to a town, Tia Juanta, which thrives on refugees from righteousness. It is composed exclusively of brothels, drinking saloons and gambling hells. I don't care for this sort of thing, but it was at least much better than anything north of the border.
Going east, I stopped off to see the Grand Canyon. It is superb, of course, the best thing in the whole country; but, at that, it is not in the same class as Himalayan scenery. The sunset effects are certainly splendid, but to me the many interests lie in the geological problem.
The canyon is a zigzag slit cut out deep through a practically level plateau. The upper part of the gap seems to show that side streams fed the main river at some time, and this explanation is usually offered. My objection is that the level is squarely cut away. One looks down over the edge to a perpendicular depth of some hundreds of feet before the sheer rock eases off to slopes. The flatness of the plateau makes it impossible that it could ever have been crossed by streams and I could hardly believe that tributaries so numerous and so short, springing from nowhere in particular, could have gouged out the gorges. I prefer to suspect that the original event was an earthquake, which opened a long crack, and that the river took advantage of this natural channel.
I went down the Colorado River by Angel Trail. I wanted to make
sure I had not lost my old speed and surefootedness. The previous record from the edge of the cliff to the river was some minutes over two hours. I did it in one hour twenty minutes to a second! I paid the price; the nails of my big toes were so badly bruised that the came off completely. I rested by the river's edge and wrote this sonnet:
<blockquote> > I lie beneath the cliff of the canyon.\\ > ....Down the long trail I flitted like a swallow,\\ > ....Daring the very elements to follow,\\ > Nor paused to mark the crags I leapt upon.\\ > Now, lying in the sun, my soul's a swan,\\ > ....Soars through the boundless blue to greet Apollo:\\ > ....I call my love by name. Remote and hollow\\ > The rocks re-echo me: "Hilarion!" </blockquote>
<blockquote> > How pure and beautiful the body is\\ > Lapped in fatigue's caressing ecstasies!\\ > ....For then the soul is free to leap above it,\\ > To soar, to dive, to seek and find his mate\\ > In the dominion of the uncreate,\\ > ....And lastly --- to return to it, and love it! </blockquote>
This was my last adventure. I returned to New York by short stages and resumed the anchorless tossing. The one new feature was my affair with Stuart X.
The next act was the appearance of Ananda K. Koomaraswamy, the Eurasian critic of religion and art, with his wife, Ratan Devi, a musician from Yorkshire, who had fallen in love with him and filched him from his first wife. He soon got sick of her and took refuge in India, but finding it a continual nuisance to have to send her supplies, wrote her to join him. It had been suggested, with the secret hope that the climate would rid him of his incubus. She made the journey in charge of his best friend, a wealthy Punjabi, whom she promptly seduced.
After a series of violent scenes in Bombay, the half-breed accepted the situation and all three travelled together for some time in the hills. Ratan Devi possessed a strange seductive beauty and charm, but above all an ear so accurate and a voice so perfectly trained, that she was able to sing Indian music, which is characterized by half and quarter tones imperceptible to most European ears. His idea was to bring her out to New York. He introduced himself to me, knowing my reputation on Asiatic religions and Magick. I invited them to dine and to pass the evening at my apartment, so that she might sing to the tamboura her repertoire of Kashmiri and other Indian songs. I was charmed and promised to do all I could to make her a success.
I introduced them to several influential people and wrote a prose poem about her singing for Vanity Fair.
She and I lost no time about falling in love. This suited her husband perfectly. The high cost of living was bad enough without having to pay for one's wife's dinner. All he asked was that I should introduce him to a girl who would be his mistress while costing him nothing. I was only too happy to oblige as I happened to know a girl with a fancy for weird adventures.
He was anxious to rid himself of even theoretical responsibilities and therefore proposed a divorce. I agreed with a yawn. Details never interest me. Meanwhile, she had made her debut and scored a superb success. This had never occurred to her husband, who, being unable to appreciate her supreme art, hardly took her singing seriously. In fact, her success was largely due to my assistance. I taught her how to let her genius loose at the critical moment. However, to her husband, only one thing mattered at all. There might be money in her. Right about face! He wriggled out of the divorce on various puerile pretexts and then pulled out the pathetic stuff, and pleaded with her to come back to him. She was the only woman he had ever loved, etc., ad nauseam.
These manoeuvres were conducted at the top of their voices. It was a series of scolding matches and epileptic fits. I had a gorgeous time! what annoyed them both more than anything was my utter indifference to the whole affair. My position was that if she chose to live with me, she could. When she wanted to get out there was the door wide open. But I wouldn't lift a finger for any purpose whatever.
The situation was complicated by her becoming pregnant. This changed my attitude. I still refused to interfere with her will, but now I was prepared to make any sacrifice necessary to insure her welfare and that of our child.
She was making quite a lot of money by now so he pestered her day and night, whenever he could spare a moment from the German prostitute with whom he was now living, having been thrown out by my eccentric friend. He had queer ideas, had the eminent mongrel. The cost of a double room being slightly less than that of two single, he effected a prudent economy by putting this girl in the same bed with his wife when he was out of town.
During this time I was often away in Washington, thus missing a good deal of the fun. In June, I came back proposing to spend the summer in a cottage by Lake Pasquaney. Ratan Devi was one of those women whose chief pleasure is to show her power over men. She tried it on me, but a bath brick would have done quite as well. Convinced after many desperate efforts that I would not run after her or even walk her way, she began to understand true love, to recognize me as her master and quit playing the
fool. She did not divine that my Gibraltar firmness was calculated policy. I really loved her and knew that the only hope of making her love me was to kill the vanity which prevented her from being true to herself, and giving her whole heart.
Before I left for New Hampshire, we had a farewell meeting. She was now too far advanced in gestation to appear in public, so her husband had persuaded her to go to England for the confinement, and also to make various necessary arrangements with regard to the future. He had now cunningly pretended to give way about the divorce, admitting my right to my child and its mother. His real motive was very different. She was a particularly bad sailor. During a previous pregnancy, she had been obliged to break the journey to save her life. She was in fact on the brink of death when they carried her ashore and she lay for weeks so ill that a breath of wind might have blown her away. It was, at least, not a bad bet that the Atlantic voyage would end in the same or even more fortunate way.
I still refused to put pressure upon her. I said, “Here's my address. You're welcome whenever you like to come, and I love you and will serve you with every ounce of my strength.”
I went off. In a few days she joined me. The peace and beauty and solitude renewed the rapture of our love. I had given my word to do nothing to hold her and after a few days she decided to go to England; her children needed her. It was her peculiar perversity to be at one time the artist absolute; at another the mother and no more, and the trouble was that whenever common sense wanted her to be the one, she invariably assumed the personality of the other. So now, just because I represented art, music and love, her troll tugged at her to be maternal.
Off she went. The Eurasian's calculations were not far wrong. The voyage caused a miscarriage and she lay between life and death for over six weeks. Needless to say, the moment the mischief was done, she repented bitterly. When she returned to America, I was in New Orleans. She implored me to come back to her. She wrote once, and often twice, every day, each averaging a dozen pages. There were also telegrams. I replied with immovable firmness. “You insisted on going away, with the result of killing our baby. I love you and I'll take you back, but on this condition; that you make a clean break with the past.”
Her unhappy temperament kept her at war with herself. She wanted to have her cake and eat it as well. She wouldn't burn her bridges. I maintained firm correctness and it all came to nothing. My heart is still not wholly healed, but I relieved myself of part of my pain by using the whole story, exact in every detail, as the background of my Simon Iff yarn “Not good enough” (The International, January 1918). I made one change. Koomaraswamy, Haranzada Swami; Haranzada being the Hindustani word for
“bastard”. The publication of this tale came as a slight shock to the self-complacency of the scoundrel.
I must not omit one characteristic incident. He happened to be momentarily hard up and conceived the really brilliant idea of concocting a fable that his German girl was a new Sappho. He made her copy out a number of poems from my Collected Works and sent her round to Putnam's to persuade them to publish the really remarkable work of this romantic young American beauty rose. The girl told his wife in bed one night, they having found a bond of common sympathy in their contempt and loathing for “The Worm” as we had familiarly called him. She told me at once, and I have every reason to believe that the letter I wrote to Putnam's is treasured in the archives of the firm as the last word in savage contempt.
So ended my adventures with these fascinating freaks. I must now run back to New Orleans.
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