Episode 11 - BEDFORD PARK!


          "Counselor Fitch, Mr. Crowley, I have made my decision... please rise. While mindful of, and certainly enlightened by, yesterday's extensive testimony I must hold this matter to be a simple one of provenance. Miss Farr claims possession by virtue of consent of Coroner Westcott, whose duties preclude his appearance but whose letter I do have, and whose reputation is beyond reproach. Mr. Crowley claims rights of possession based on the transfer of authority from someone who may or may not be a British national, but who indubitably resides abroad... moreover, sir, you cannot or will not give the name of such person. Is that correct, sir?

          Crowley, rising, opened his hands and declared, "that is in the nature of the oath we Hermeticsts take, your Honor. I am sorry... I cannot."

          "I am sorry too, howsoever certain of your views may privately appeal to me," said the Magistrate with a rather salacious smile before gaveling down his verdict. "For this reason I find for Miss Farr and direct Mr. Crowley to pay fines and costs in the sum of five English pounds to this Court. My decision shall be forwarded to Charles Russell for execution as to you, Mr. Crowley, in the unwise event of your appeal. Adjourned."

          Crowley's face fell almost through the floor and I feared he might have at the Magistrate with his walking stick so Bennett and I steered him away to the lobby where he could explode with lesser damage done. "Fined five pounds, like a common cutpurse!" My landlord waved his stick, the passing solicitors and officers regarding us most queerly. "Justice I say... well at least that detestable barrister was forced to buy my books. A few hundred more such cases and I'll have sold out all of my first editions."

          It was at this unfortunate moment that the opposing parties approached, Counselor Fitch quite conspicuously absent. I saw Crowley's grip tighten around his stick, then one of those occasional generous impulses must have seized him, for he inexplicably extended a hand towards his principal enemy.

          "Well played, Yeats. British justice has prevailed again."

          Of course such compliment was meant to sting, and certain pain had to have mingled with whatever satisfaction the verdict had given Yeats. "Simple justice, I'd say. Crowley, you are insane, and Mathers is a madman also for sending you upon this errand."

          "Such bad humour - and for a victor in the docks. What a beast you should be had I prevailed. Nonetheless if you will not take my hand and perhaps a potion at Cafe Royale, I know Miss Farr will," Crowley winked, "Miss Gonne also and Vestigia's friend?"

          "Don't go, Maud," the Dubliner pleaded. "At the least he'll pretend to be without funds and stick you with the bill..."

          Crowley sighed and riffled through the contents of his wallet, swelled by the drugged generosity of Atlantean prurience.

          "What a small, mean mind Willie has! Here is a tenner for Maud to do with as she chooses, no obligation implied and no recompense expected although now, Miss Gonne, you may stand me a drink or buy something amusing for yourself... a hat, perhaps."

          "Willie? Florence, Annie and I are going to drink with Mr. Crowley. Are you coming or do you choose to sulk?"

          "Very well," Yeats consented. "But only in the hope of perhaps dissuading a young American away from bad companionship."

          Some men grow the worse for drink, others from sobriety. Willie Yeats, fortunately, was of the latter inclination; in the crowded Cafe Royale with many glasses on the table, his tone grew moderate, his sentiments persuasive as opposed to the hectoring character that is common to church socials and chicken runs. Gonne and Crowley sat laughing over some instance of British misrule, Farr and Bennett conversing on matters Oriental. Annie Horniman, quite alone, stiffly pretended to sip from the same goblet of claret that had sat before her these three quarters of an hour.

          "You see, I believe you do have a facility... which," said Willie, "must be wholly wasted in the company of, well..." and the poet indicated with a wave.

          "To the contrary, I know Mr. Crowley as a generous man and a brilliant magickian..." I found myself replying, "he has even taught me to pronounce the "k" which is that which distinguishes the Adept from a common music-hall performer."

          "Crowley only shows you only that which he desires. He has a plan for you... be assured it is horrible! But if you're to be a genuine initiate, you shall have to learn about making decisions sooner or later... and if Mister Crowley is serious in respecting your will, well he wouldn't object your being led behind the veil... Florence?

          "The young man ought to come to Thursday night instruction in Bedford Park!" suggested Farr. "Then he'd be ready for the excursion on the Eve of Souls."

          "How about it Cameron? Ask him! He can't," Yeats replied to Florence Farr, "... the old vulture has sunk its claws in him already!"

          If the ale had exerted a calming effect upon Yeats' nature, my own temper was aroused. "What nonsense. Aleister!" I declared, "Mr. Yeats and Miss Farr have invited me to Bedford Park - wherever that is."

          "It's no place, Cameron… rather, it's a disease. Go, by all means! do what thou wilt, drink as thou wilt also but mind... not a crumb of Bedford fare must cross your lips..."

          "Why - is it enchanted there? Poisoned?"

          "Not intentionally so, but the cooking of the greater families of Yeats and Farr are what has given Britain its just repute for rotten repasts!"

          As with many things, my landlord was quite clairvoyant regarding Thursday's evening meal; a gray and slushy excrescence dropped upon my plate in the home of Farr's sister Henrietta and brother-in-law Paget, whose innumerable children careened wildly through the room, interrupting the supper... such as it was. Yeats was there also, with his father John and, at the far end of the table, a plump fellow full of distillery cheer.

          "Florence tells me you are a painter but also an engineer," I addressed the paterfamilias. Engineering used to be my major before, well..."

          "Yes, yes... well I mostly paint now," Paget replied, "save for my railroad and work with the fire brigade."

          "Hoohaw!" the fat man interrupted. "Paget with an axe and bucket is more peril to the vicinity than all the flames of Hell."

          "Thank you Chesterton..."

          "But his railroad is really a marvel, quite accurate also isn't it, somewhere in the Swiss Alps?"

          Gilbert Keith Chesterton had been introduced to me as a journalist, also a dabbler in politics of the Labour Party... which he represented as a sort of Bryanism, strained through the Church of England, rather, to my way of thinking then and now as a dialectical near-cousin to Mrs. Paget's unsavoury casserole. Subsequently, of course, the man gravitated to orthodoxy as many do in their middle age - in 1899 he'd not yet developed that fluidity of argument which distinguishes the enthusiast with something to say from the bore.

          "Actually, Paget allowed, "I modeled my miniatures more towards the Austro-Bavarian border where Henny and I used to ski with Flo and Eddie before we were so many."

          As at the Cafe Royale, Florence Farr drank copiously and spoke plainly - this time about the man whom, I gathered, was still her husband. "Eddie felt his prospects as an actor were better in New York... perhaps you've seen him, Mr. Cameron, on the stage? No? That's transit for you... one coming, one going. He was a kind man and very athletic but... well, he has a rather average mind with one thought less every year..."

          "Well I liked the fellow," replied John Butler Yeats, "he may have had a low standard of brilliance but little foolishness either..."

          "Father..." Willie began, but the elder Yeats silenced him with a glance.

          "I suppose Mr. Cameron... may I call you Arthur?... that my Willie and Florence here have been leaning on you to join their society..."

          "As opposed to Mr. Crowley's?" I asked, an inquiry that elicited only contempt from the father.

          "Faugh! It's all the same. Brown leaves and yellow but from the same dead trunk and withered roots and if you take up a spade and dig, you'll find everything not commingled in Germany to have derived from Russians."

          "But one cannot be for free Ireland without supporting Herzl and the Boers..." Gilbert Chesterton protested.

          "Bernard Shaw is. You should have married that man, Florence, even if he used to bang that ugly old scold, Annie Besant, and is a sort of Socialist, he's a weak one at least...

          "Weakness and Socialism..." Willie scoffed, "what's to tell between the two?"

          "Is this the fellow still enrolled in Madame Blavatsky's Esoteric Section?"

          "The matter's irrelevant..." Farr answered, raising a fraying pan of scalding coffee towards Willie and Chesterton as if to settle their dispute by implications of force, rather as Teddy Roosevelt was to scotch that war between the Japanese and Russia. "Now Bernard has his green-eyed millionairess and is ever practical, rather the less a playwright for it if I may give my opinion."

          Henrietta Farr Paget and two of her daughters finally collected the plates; I sat hoping I had consumed enough not to give offense when Dorothy, several years away from her greatest triumphs as child-actress for both Yeats and Shaw, suggested "Father, may we show Mr. Cameron the trains?"

          Paget agreed so, clutching my cup, I followed the Bedforders crowding into his basement, nearly losing my coffee after an inadvertent elbow from the tipsy Chesterton.

          "Willie's kept me abreast of your case, my own sympathies rather lie with the Magistrate... I do not see how more of them are not driven mad. As for the young man, one would never think such a grim fellow would allow any woman to call him Willie. He's a fair playwright but not half what his father is... though if he'd dump all that mystical trash he could be someone..."

          "I heard that!" Willie Yeats protested from below.

          "Well it's true! Blake!... he makes my skin crawl with his unfriendly spirits... we always are compelled to feel that he is saying something very plain, even though we don't have the wildest notion of what it may be."

          "Cameron ignore that man, he only will end up a Catholic."

          "While Willie, with his banshees, rocks and ruined cabins... you'll become one of those Irish politicians!" And so these two, so disagreeable among themselves and to others, proved prophets... of a sort.

          "Boys!" Florence scolded, "Shush!... Paget's about to put out the lamp."

          He did, plunging the cellar into darkness, but then a string of tiny lights, each no larger than a thumbnail, revealed an Alpine fantasy, a fairy village round which a little train pulled its burden of passengers and freight, even slowing a bit as it approached a curve around the mountains... just as real locomotives do.

          "As an artist, I'm inclined against most science," Paget allowed, "but one can't help grant credit to Edison for the making of such miracles..."

          The dim basement grew quiet, save for some muffled giggling and the squeals of the younger children. Over the flickering blue and green lights of Toytown, I returned the smile with which coltish Dorothy favored me before smiling back towards Willie, experienced beyond her years.

          "And this is modeled on a real place in the mountains?" I felt obliged to inquire.

          "A fairyland! Quite," Paget said, "and its name... it is Berchtesgaden!"


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