Episode 7 - THE SIEGE of ISIS-URANIA!


          A horsecar attired with posters advertising Bovril ("Makes Muscle!") and Pears' Soap soon pulled up before the flat in Chancery Lane at the hour of arrangement. It was a dark night... not stormy as Lord Lytton favored in one of his less successful offerings, but steeped in fog; a night for crime and magick. We three ghastly figures proceeded to the coach in full Scots regalia... kilts, kneestockings and ceremonial daggers, and with faces concealed by black silk masks into which slits for eyes had been cut. But I suppose our appearance was more comical than sinister for the coachman stifled a chuckle.

          "On our way to a dress ball are we gents... or do I say laddies" (his Cockney imitation of Scots dialect particularly appalling) "...celebrating a wee bit early the turn o'the century?"

          "Shut up and drive to Kensington," Crowley growled behind his mask. "West to Blythe Road but before Shepherd's Bush..."

          "That's beyond me limit guv'nor... " Crowley removed the dagger from his belt and the affected speech melted away... though not the driver's truculence. "Four bob the trip, or for the first hour two and sixpence..."

          "And after?" Crowley bargained.

          "Eightpence the quarter hour..."

          "Then you shall wait for us to conclude our business. Bennett, pay the man for the first hour..."

          Crowley had thoroughly drilled me in the layout of the Isis-Urania temple... I gathered he and Bennett visited, often, the one called Sapienta, Florence Farr. Blythe Road proved as foggy as Chancery with only a single flickering streetlight, in those days there was plenty of shrubbery about London, places to hide... and conspire...

          "Go round the corner and wait... we won't be very long. We may be in a hurry so don't fall asleep or I'll thrash you myself," Crowley added.

          The driver opened his mouth as if to reply smartly, but thought the better of it and guided his beasts away and we advanced towards the witches' keep. Behind a door came laughter, mostly feminine, and Bennett gave the black wood a sharp blow with his corrective rod. A woman's voice replied, "Is that you, Brodie?"

          "Be still!" Crowley whispered. "That's Sapienta... Farr... she thinks I'm Brodie-Innes. Another Odd Volume, a sort of left-over Mesmerist."

          "I'll get it!" another voice exclaimed and the door was opened by a woman quite as tall as Crowley, though not so large around the middle. The magickian pushed her aside, albeit with difficulty and a curse.

          "Gonne!" I thought that a declaration but it was, in fact, the Fury's name. "And there's Yeats sipping tea... DEDI he calls himself. Deus et Demon Inversus. What God!... and what poor Devil... did you and Maud finally have sex while I was in Mexico or are you still writing abominable poetry. Florence Farr!" The occultist pointed theatrically. "I've come to claim the certifications!"

          Following Crowley and Bennett into the a parlour well illuminated both by gas and a fireplace, I saw Florence Farr to be wearing a sort of veil that dangled from a beaded headset; the third of Crowley's "witches" was a much shorter person of rather intense aspect under a purple shawl whom I would learn to be Annie Horniman... although not on this evening. A pale round man approaching middle age shrieked at our entry and fled past us into the street; a second, well-muscled Londoner shrank back towards the wall but a younger fellow - tall, with thick spectacles, advanced undeterred by our masks, our daggers or demeanors.

          "Crowley, you lunatic - I had heard you'd returned," this fellow said, "although I'd hoped you'd fallen down some Mexican volcano. Apparently you haven't. Get out with your disreputable butler and this other. This is a house of..."

          "Of God? Do say it, Yeats... you've gone back to Rome, haven't you? Where next... Jerusalem?" The Beast began attacking a large cabinet, throwing open drawers and kicking furniture when he failed to detect what he'd been seeking. "Just give me the papers! Or I'll prick Sapienta, though she'd probably welcome the gesture..."

          He advanced on Florence Farr, dagger before him like a crucifix but Yeats hurled a vase of roses at the magickian. Cursing, Crowley swiped at his foe, missing... giving Maud Gonne an opportunity to seize him from behind. A quarter turn of the black mask and Crowley was blinded, but continued to lunge about the temple like a wounded Cyclops as the poet's accomplice, roused from his corner, ducked and parried, peppering him with well-planned but ineffectual blows.

          "For the Devil's sake," Crowley called out, " me!"

          "Prepare to face my Rod of Correction!" shrieked Bennett. He jabbed his wand at the formidable Gonne, a full six inches taller than he, but she intercepted his wrist and they fell backwards, upsetting a couch and a lamp. Recovering from my astonishment, I threw an ugly, lunging blow which struck Yeats high on the side of his head and would have done little damage save that his spectacles were dislodged, leaving him nearly as blind as Crowley. I advanced to finish the fellow off but Crowley's flailing left hand cuffed my shoulder and the blinded occultist thrust his dagger towards my nose with mortal intent.

          "It's me, you idiot!" I protested and something leaped upon my back... I was told after that it was Florence Farr... who twisted the mask I wore around until I was quite as blind as the rest. Sapienta's nails raked my neck and shoulders, pummelling my ears with her fists she commenced digging her heels into my liver as I roared and thrashed... a pretty sight we must have made; three blind Hermeticsts, two Amazons, a near-blind poet and a bewildered pugilist, engaged in a disastrous dance of failed mayhem amidst shouts of "who's that?", "stop", "it's me!" and various oaths...

          Finally I heard police whistles and something heavy crashed against my face behind its mask... I was certain my nose had been broken for the quantity of blood but, of course, it had been contained by the fabric so I might have suffocated had I not screamed until one of the bobbies tugged away the mask with a painful yank. Yeats' muscular accomplice had quite reasonably slipped away, but we four demonologists... for the police were adamant that all the males must be equally guilty of something, no matter how Gonne, Farr and Horniman pleaded for poor Willie... were hauled off into a wagon to spend a miserable and painful night in jail. The last I saw was the leader of the bobbies... I do not know whether he was a Captain or only a mere Sergeant... tipping his tall hat to the ladies on his way out.

          The siege of Isis-Urania was over!


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