GENERISIS presents THE GOLDEN DAWN
Episode 9 - THE MAGISTRATE PERSPIRES!
We convened rather later that afternoon than the Magistrate ordered... and it was the cause of this worthy servant of Justice who appeared twenty minutes late; his fresh wig and further stratum of powder failing to conceal the redness of his cheeks and nose, attesting to his improvised remedy for the stresses of the morning.
Crowley's secret witness, first to be called, disappointed me. A boy who schemed to disguised his years by growing a stringy beard which sprouted out in tufts, like broomstalks, in some places, elsewhere growing in thin as corn-silk and elsewhere not at all he inspired, firstly, a sense of apprehension, an embarrassment in the offering and, secondly, an affront to American pride.
"Your name and origin, sir?" Crowley began inauspiciously.
"Ezra Pound. I was born in the state of Idaho but am, at present, resident in London."
"And do you know that young man there, with the spectacles?" He pointed to Yeats, presently engaged in some rather furious dispute with Edward Fitch. "Show your face, Willie... let the lad have a good look at you."
"That's the man!" replied the sullen young Westerner.
"And how is it that you come to know Mr. Yeats."
"Through fencing, sir."
"So am I given to understand that this member of the plaintiff's party who smokes Indian hemp, is the spiritual lover of Maud Gonne and consorts rather more profanely with Florence Farr also is... ahem!... a fencing master?"
"Not at all!" Pound spoke up, "it is I who am his tutor."
"The Devil be..." and Crowley balled his fist, placing it before his mouth. Whatever he had planned for this youth lay suddenly and strangely in ruins, the extent of which may have become clearer had Fitch not abruptly risen to object.
"Nonsense! Your Honor... Defendant shows a clear intent to mislead and to deceive. He's a boy! Why he's no more capable of raising a sword than... well... one of these ladies here."
"Is that a challenge, mister. You look like a gentleman who could handle yourself," the Idaho boy remarked, eyes bright at the anticipation of a scrap, "so if that fellow with the wig says so I'll be pleased to run you through and through..."
Before this could transpire Fitch was attacked from either side... by Yeats, whose nervous, though inaudible comments seemed to attest to the young man's abilities and, from the barrister's other side, by Gonne who, taking offense at Fitch's dismissal of her martial inclinations, seemed endeavoring to push ahead of young Master Pound for a chance at him.
It took three blows for the Magistrate to gavel the session back to order.
"Well, Mr. Pound," Crowley attempted to follow up, "it would still be your contention, wouldn't it be, that Mr. Yeats is a man of violent sentiments?"
"Well, he's capable..." the youth allowed, "though..."
"Well, a bit queer in the head 'bout the moon, very very bughouse actually. Always under attack by goblins... lobster suppers and rats in drafty rooms above that shoemaker's, that's all it is."
"Queer! Bughouse... under attack by goblins!" Crowley commiserated. "Counselor, have you any questions of Mr. Pound."
"I am not in the habit of abusing minors from before the bench," replied Farr's barrister. "However, if an officer of the court should have cause for truancy proceedings..."
"Since I am not aware of any Crown responsibilities for foreign nationals under the age of consent," said the Magistrate, "it is in the interest of justice that this witness be excused. If there is a place you are expected to be, young man, I would proceed to that location forthwith."
"Bullshite!" declared young Pound, leaving the stand.
"I believe that is an expression of respect employed in certain Western states of America," Crowley hastened to add. "My next witness shall be Arthur Cameron of New York..."
"Doesn't the Defense Counsel have any to defend his position save functionally illiterate young foreigners?" Fitch sniped.
"It is the right of the Defense to call any witness whom they desire, Crown citizen or not," the Magistrate reprimanded him, and with that I was given the oath and seated.
"Mr. Fitch is mistaken in one aspect, is he not... that you are no common macaroni but have followed, rather, a university course in engineering which you intend to continue in this country?"
"That's so," I said. Having made known to my landlord some of the circumstances of the Wolf and the Skull; it had been Crowley's surmise that such derogatory information would be in little danger of discovery by our adversaries. Omitting entirely the occurrences at Isis-Urania Crowley, rather, directed my testimony to our brief encounter with the Coroner.
"Dr. Westcott, as the Court is aware, has availed himself of the privilege of absenting himself from these proceedings. His reasons for doing so may become the substance of later testimony but, for the present, could you enlighten this Court with your impression of the good Doctor?"
"I'll try. He seemed respectable enough, had plenty of decorations and degrees... though he rather did go on about this dead German woman..."
"And you had the opportunity to observe this Coroner in an instance of penmanship?"
"I did. During our appointment a gentleman entered the office with a death certificate and Westcott signed it."
"And your estimation of the coroner's handwriting would be that it was quite legible, sir, most unlike that of plaintiff William Butler Yeats here, whose script is as appalling as his vision..."
"Objection!" cried Fitch. "Objection! Objection! This witness is a travesty... this process... does this Counsel for the defense have any idea where his line of questioning is leading..."
"It leads," said Crowley, before the Magistrate could make his mind up whether or not to intervene, "to a possible instance of criminal forgery."
"This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard spoken of."
"But it is not you I ask, Counselor, rather Mr. Cameron here. Tell the court... do you believe the Coroner capable of forgery?"
"Perhaps..." I answered, if with somewhat less certitude than upon those instances in Crowley's flat as we rehearsed the testimony, "yes... isn't anyone capable of anything?"
"Exactly!" my landlord said, throwing his arms upwards in a triumphant gesture. "Your witness!" he told the bewildered Fitch.
The barrister for Farr, Yeats and the others hesitated so long that I had considered stepping down when, giving an impression of deep thought, he motioned me back to my seat.
"Anyone..." queried Edward Fitch, "anyone, and capable of anything. So you must have read Wittgenstein?
"No, sir..." I replied.
"Surely Hegel? Bergson?"
"No... although I hear they are well regarded on the Continent, sir..." I felt obligated to add.
"I see. Despite your aspect of rebelliousness, don't you tend to do rather what you're told?" was Fitch's next statement. I replied I didn't really know; I've quite forgetten the nature of my reply, but it seemed such as to encourage the barrister in sustaining his air of grave dissatisfaction. Despite Crowley's assurances, I felt momentary panic... was it inconceivable that our adversaries had received a wire attesting to the suspicions I labored under, or that they had an informer in their midst... Viereck, perhaps?
"But it doesn't seem strange," Fitch elaborated, "that you should be asked to put on a Scots kilt and dagger, wear a mask and break into a house belonging to a woman whom you've never met..."
"Well if you must put it that way..." I began.
"Which way, Mr. Cameron..." Fitch prompted.
"Well... that way!" Had Crowley objected, I certainly would have remembered to reiterate the matter of the forgery, but as it was, Fitch merely dismissed me with an exasperated sigh, as if I were a mentality beneath even the inarticulate Ezra Pound. My landlord would not meet my eyes, nor I his... and whereas I was given to understand Alan Bennett would be next to testify, and after him perhaps others, Crowley stood up and declared that he would take the stand in his own defense. But as the Bailiff proffered a Bible towards him, Crowley recoiled as if confronted with one of Bennett's vipers.
"Take that thing from my presence. I mean not to imply it would harm me; there are even certain useful passages I admire," the magickian allowed, smacking his lips, "as Solomon's song to his mistress, Sodom before the fall..."
The Bailiff remained unmoved. "Sir, the court requires a sworn oath."
"Would you have me affirm upon what is precious, bring me Gargantua or Blake, or... if it is upon something precious you would desire that I affirm..."
And, turning his back to the Magistrate, facing Fitch and the three weird sisters directly, Crowley began to unbutton his trousers with a broad smile while the Magistrate and Bailiff conspired furiously...
"Such demonstrance will not be necessary," the Bailiff suggested, "would you consent to affirmation upon Mr. Webster's Dictionary..."
"That book which is the foundation of all of the lies upon which the English language and, consequently, its jurisprudence is based? I shall!" Crowley declared, passing before the bench to the witness chair. "As counselor I request witness state his name and occupation." He sat down, looking upwards and to his left as towards an imagined barrister. "Aleister... born, however, Alexander Crowley... I am an adventurer, poet, mage, author of 'A Place to Bury Strangers In'... available through Watkins'." He winked at the gallery, rose and stepped aside, taking that position which barristers take and hooking his thumbs through his suspenders for emphasis. "Now, Mr. Crowley, what are your qualifications to secure possession of the documents described in the testimony of others, notably the estimable Miss Farr?" Again my landlord sat down with a smirk. "That I am student of Tetragrammaton and master of the Tarot... that..."
Fitch finally found his voice. "I object, I must! This... this is not justice, it is farce."
The Magistrate sought refuge in his handkerchief, using it to blot his increasingly piebald face.
"When you have been as many years in Chancery as I, Counselor Fitch, you shall find such distinctions to blur most unwholesomely. Mr. Crowley has the right to act as his own barrister..." the Magistrate conceded, "but all this sitting and standing really isn't quite necessary. We have been amused, sir, now may we return to the merits of your case, as such may exist?"
"Certainly," Crowley answered, "although if it pleases the Court, I shall continue utilizing dialectic, for it is in the great Socratic tradition..."
"So long as you do understand what happened to him before the Greek bar."
For the first time, Crowley appeared taken aback, bested at his own game. "Well! As counselor then... Mr. Crowley, as an initiate of an order whose secrets you may not divest even under peril of, may we say... Socratic justice?... is there nonetheless perspective you can offer? As witness... there is! One school of the Far East would concur with Plato that the origins of hermetic knowledge derive from Atlanteans of eleven to fourteen millennia past... but in a Christian court founded upon Hebraic ritual, I prefer Solomon's interpretation of..."
"Objection! Objection and again... this witness and, and counselor, whomsoever he imagines himself at the moment... is making a mockery of the law. Atlantis! Solomonic buffoonery... Mr. Crowley is merely attempting to win his case through the exhaustion of reason..."
"We set great store by Solomon here, Counselor so testimony may continue. As you, I wish it to be brief, although I fear such shall not be so."
Again the Magistrate blotted his forehead. Of my landlord's testimony... mercifully... I remember only fragments and the fact that it was quarter past two when he began, the sun long down when finally silent. Bennett and I marked the passage of time by the shadows on the walls of court and the deforming effect of the powder on the face of the Magistrate, through which he gradually acquired the aspect of a sinister clown of Inquisition by such time as Crowley - having dispensed with the Pharaohs and with Rome - arrived upon and crossed the great divide of the Crusades.
The gallery had emptied considerably, many of its occasional spectators dozing or reading newspapers; I do remember that, of the plaintiffs, three remained quite attentive (the exception being Annie Horniman). Yeats even resorted to what I considered the extreme measure of taking notes upon Crowley's discourse as if possessed by some djinn of disorientation. From my seat, I could see the volume of testimony and the haste with which it was delivered rendered the playwrights's infamous penmanship wholly illegible... I fancied, then, that the madman might induce his lawyer to challenge Crowley on points of history but, in fact, Yeats was preparing appeal to quite another body of judgment.
"The massacre of Cathars in 1209 AD," the magickian enumerated in his witness persona, "which inspired the famous pronouncement 'Kill them all, for the Lord will know his own', presaged ultimate extermination of the cult thirty five years after, at Montsegur, but not until certain relics were removed and safely hidden. Counselor: and these were... Witness: all of the usual, bones of saints, splinters of the true cross but the Grail has also been alleged, even some untranslated Gospels in their original Greek or Aramaic."
Well after five in the afternoon, Crowley brought his historical background to a conclusion with acknowledgements to Cagliostro and Eliphas Levi, those decedents whom I already have mentioned that the poor, deluded fellow then and now considered his prior incarnations, according to the transmigratory superstitions of the Orient. Now commenced a recital of grievances perpetrated by the Plaintiffs and Dr. Westcott upon him and the long-suffering MacGregor Mathers of Paris whose occult offices were much insinuated upon but never named... causing the furiously scribbling Yeats as much disappointment, I gather, as Crowley himself had known. Long exercise of his tongue had in no way tired my landlord, who now pointed a finger no less steadfast than Zola's at Yeats while the tiny pupils of his great, white eyes glittered with zealous indignation...
"... whereupon Mr. Yeats, yes, that man seated before you, taking my words down... no doubt to be conveyed to malign Secret Chiefs of the rebel Irish, or even Boer agency, did send a vampire in the form of a beautiful courtesan? Witness: He did! Counsel: And on the morning after? Witness: I found myself in bed with a withered hag, blood upon her rotten teeth. Counsel: And did, by magic, Mr. Yeats incite other provocations? Witness: Yes, he chased me down Threadneedle Street in the aspect of Beelzebub and poisoned my dogs..."
And by the time my landlord wove his tale round to what Yeats later termed our Executive Difficulty, I envisioned the Magistrate's head spinning with images of uniformed Boer crones unleasing Irish wolfhounds... his complexion had wilted to the pallor of a lily-of-the-Valley-of-the-Shadow, deluged by a cosmetic mudslide.
"My Parisian correspondent, whom I am not at liberty to name, validated Monsieur and Madame Horos by their knowledge of the occult name of the aforementioned Fraulein Sprengel, Sapiens Dominabitor Astris. A secret name is, above all, secret... only other initiates may know. Counsel: Then how is it you come to know this name? Witness: By revelation of my Parisian teacher, a colleague of the Coroner Westcott who has declined to appear in this Court. He... the Parisian adept, I mean... has expressed concern that Theo Horos and his wife are black beetles... Jesuit spies, if you will... therefore provenance serves not merely one of my own selfish aims but the security of the Anglican Church. And on that supposition I conclude my testimony!"
"S'cuse," Bennett said, pushing past, "I quite lost track of the time... I've yet to set the stage for tonight's show."
Crowley arose from the witness box. "Thank you counsellor," he bowed, turning that great head around Janus-like "and you, witness..."
"One moment here!" objected Fitch, roused from his stupour. "Do you intend to cross-examine this... this witness?" remarked the piebald Magistrate.
"Only a few questions," Fitch suggested.
A distant clock chimed the hour of seven as the Magistrate lifted his motley visage to wave matters onward.
Fitch stumbled slightly as he rose, his lower limbs having quite fallen asleep, as had my own. Grasping the rail for support, he appealed: "Mr. Crowley... are we to believe that great matters of state and religion rest on the allegations of an unseen mastermind of Paris?"
Nearly six hours' discourse had by no means exhausted the voluble magickian who rose from the witness chair, bellowing "Objection! Objection!"
"Answer the question Mr. Crowley," ordered the Magistrate. "You have entertained us the whole of this afternoon and longer, by my reckoning; it is only fair that you swallow a dose of your own medicine."
"Thank you," Fitch replied. "Again, do you base your supposition upon the contents of what is, to all effects, an anonymous French letter?"
The sleepy chambers awoke with startled laughter... proddings of elbows summoning forth whispers for those whom the voice of my landlord had carried away to Nod.
"I didn't mean it that way... stop! Well, will you produce this Frenchman or at least provide us with his name?"
"He is English, or rather a Scotsman living abroad... beyond that I am constrained by my oath of secrecy."
"The court will so note the contempt in which this witness places it. Mr. Crowley, is it not also true that you have debts?"
"Doesn't everyone?" my landlord replied with a shrug.
"Let us now roll the clock back three years," said Fitch, eyes finally narrowing into the predatory scowl without which, it has been my observation, any attorney, young or old, is better advised seeking employment in dry goods. "You engaged in ongoing intimate relations with one Diane deRougy, an intimate of the notorious and thankfully deceased painter Beardsley?"
"I have held a good many lovers, Counselor, and several bad ones also... certainly more than you shall ever know... and so I am not very well at names, though I would recognize her face..."
Fitch spoke carefully now, as if baiting a rat-trap that might yet spring back upon his thumb. "Actually I was thinking about another part of the anatomy. In fact, Diane deRougy is also known as Herbert Pollitt... a fellow, if not a gentleman, which makes you guilty of the vice of Oscar Wilde, also known to have consorted with Mr. Beardsley!"
"If your Madame deRougy was playing a role as actress... or actor perhaps?... can one be faulted for his or her excellence of craft?"
"This is your Madame, sir, not mine, and apparently you cannot be faulted for anything, Mr. Crowley. Now among other tendencies you share with Mr. Wilde, don't you consider yourself something of a wit? How about this epigramme: "Oh English girl! Half baby and half bitch!" Is that your opinion of English womanhood? Careful!... I have more... from your books!" And with his scowl veritably splitting, spilling over its banks into a grin of positively fiendish self-satisfaction, Fitch produced a box bulging with same.
"Counselor!" warned the Magistrate. "I have extended the hours of court to conclude with testimony today, that I may reflect upon what I've heard tonight and render my verdict upon the morrow. I see you have quite a few of Mr. Crowley's books... do you plan to read from every one?"
"I do!" cried Fitch earnestly. "And I've many other anecdotes related to this man that the Court must hear... the matter of Mrs. Simpson, sordid adventures in the Alps and..."
"You do have that right under the law," the Magistrate allowed. "However, I also have the duty to inform you that further derogatory insinuation upon a character of Mr. Crowley's sort, however amusing, can have little effect on my verdict... and what little that shall probably have adverse effect..."
"I wholly concur and so release the witness, moreover I now rest my case. Only, your Honor, let me make a gift to you of these volumes so... only if you desire... you may further inquire into the character of this man. Keep them! I have a wife and children... I would not wish such pornography under my roof."
"Really?" The Magistrate raised a talc-bespattered eyebrow from the box of books towards Crowley. "In that case I shall accept your offer... not as a solicitation, let it be recorded, but in the interests of justice. This court is adjourned until tomorrow at ten."
Crowley lumbered from the dock, only now showing the weakness of limb that had affected every other person in court. "Thank the Old One!" he groaned as we stretched and I windmilled my arms to restore circulation of the blood. "Bennett would be most offended if I missed his recital... though he's not much to look at, he could be a formidable enemy with his knowledge of poisons and such. So do compliment him on his dancing round, whatever you may really think. And don't turn, but I seem to observe Miss Farr giving you a look rather more longingly than is proper. Miss Gonne also. Perhaps they see something in your physique missing in poor, Irish Willie. Gomorrah! let's be off!"
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