Episode 22 - DAS AFFENHAUS!


          Voyaging from Berchtesgaden to Berlin consumed most of the day... we passed through Plzen and Dresden, at which station the balding Slav availed himself of the layover to purchase a most objectionable cigar. Only once had he peered out from behind his newspaper... when I removed the Vehmic dagger with its black smudges, handling it by its edges carefully and looking up to find the Russian staring openly with eyes, burning and black like a pair of Pennsylvania coals. He made a gesture with the thumb and third and fourth fingers of his left hand... a sort of sign to which I replied with a weary nod... any thoughts of allowing myself to fall asleep in such company quite negated.

          At the Berlin Banhof three uniformed men entered our cabin and their officer motioned for the goateed Russian to follow. "Herr Ulyanov..." he welcomed the man, as if he were a sort of dignitary and the bald fellow gathered up his papers and departed between the two soldiers, still wreathed in the smoke of his obnoxious cigar. With the Russian gone and my German companions also, the remaining official inspected my papers which, fortunately, had survived the Jagdhaus, clicked his heels and returned them with an inquiry in English.

          "And your motive for visiting Berlin?"

          "I am a medical student," I lied... or rather exaggerated... "apprenticing in the veterinary sciences, and I intended to visit your zoo. I have been told that it is the finest in Europe."

          "That it is!" said the officer. "Dr. Lichtenstein convinced the Emperor to open it fifty-eight years ago... the aquarium is particularly fine. Enjoy your visit!" he said.

          My funds were also in the billfold that held my papers, so I proceeded to a small hotel of the sort I determined unlikely to host agents of secret societies and, in the morning, exchanged some of my British pounds and sauntered up the newly popular Kurfurstendamm towards Tiergarten Square, acquiring a paper bag of chestnuts from one of those vendors who haunted this fashionable boulevard. The concierge had given rough directions to the zoo but I realized I should have asked for a map, so... noticing a man slumped morosely on a bench... I asked "Herr... Herr, ist dis... aw hell, spreichen der Angeles?"

          "I do..." shrugged the melancholy German.

          "I am looking for the way to the zoological garden."

          "It is that way," the fellow pointed, thrusting his thumb out as if to summon a policeman.

          "Danke," I replied. "Nice day, isn't it... if a little cold..." and I opened my bag to the glum fellow.

          "Chestnut? Couldn't help noticing you look a little down."

          "Danke. I have only been thinking."

          "Oh... sorry to have disturbed you," I replied. "I'd only lost my way."

          "All of us are losing our way, now," the German muttered. "For instance... I am sorry to appear rude, my name is Planck and my occupation is Professor of Physics. Five years ago, our cozy fraternity came to the conclusion that Gott's werken had all been detected and measured, that there was no more to learn... an end to science, if you will. Yesterday a student from Zurich showed to me equations that... well, have you ever placed a mirror on the floor and, upon this mirror... a dog? When der hund looks down he will leap for his life as if the world itself had been rolled up and what beneath stands revealed is no less than die grosse Abyss! As a Physicist, I make a very poor Christian, nevertheless..."

          And the German Professor crossed himself in apparent mortal terror and his shoulders shook, no matter how warm the chestnuts I pressed into his fingers.

          "Of late I have experienced quite a similar sensation," I thought to console Doktor Planck. "Why only yesterday, well... no, let me relate, instead, a question my colleague Machen posed, when we were on a walk in London. We were speaking of sin and he asked what I might feel, should that dog you mentioned dispute his terror with you in a human accent. Or if a pebble grew stony blossoms, or a rose began to sing from Tannhauser..."

          Planck lifted his great, shaggy head, rolling the chestnuts round between his palms. "You are right, sir, science has known the beginnings of great sin, such that this little Ulmer cannot conceive. He is a dreamer... but powerful men shall twist his dreams, perhaps to destroy the world or worse... to atrophy its soul by making war impossible. If God is with us still, he'll bury himself in that Swiss patent office or some such obscure place but, alas, once that bag of flies has been opened, no hand may ever put them back. I have delayed you, forgive me. That fork will lead you to the zoo." And Planck emitted what I remember as a terrible sigh. "I do not think I shall ever be able to look at a giraffe in the same manner again."

          Leaving the physicist to morbid ponderings, I passed through the gates of the zoo, admiring its fine carvings of lions and peacocks, contributing a few marks to its Fund and asking of the attendant, "Doktor Haeckel?"

          "Die oberfuhrer est im das Affenhaus mit Zaharoff," was the answer that I was given.

          "Danke," I said, taking up a map to the grounds... from my studies in biology I knew to follow the sound and scents of monkeys, and such place soon manifested exactly as the map promised it should. Among gleeful children and tittering adolescents and, yes, several matrons of the haute-bourgeoise who responded to the coarser simian episodes by placing gloved hands over their mouths... not their eyes!... strolled a pair of stern, long bearded men in dark, formal suits; one gesturing towards the apes as he discoursed in a language I suspected to be Russian.

          "Doktor Haeckel?," I interrupted, and the men turned their heads curiously. "I have a recommendation to you... do you speak English?"

          "Basil and Haeckel have twelve languages between us," the Russian observed proudly, "...including English of course. But who are you?"

          "My name is Arthur Cameron," I said... presuming the other to be the zoologist, I addressed him, "Sir, I am sent by Westcott and Crowley in London, and have just come from Grein..."

          The two bearded men shared glances of surprise, then cunning...

          "I am Haeckel, the Monist," said the man standing by the Russian.

          "And a busy man, certainly," I replied hastily in order to correct any impression of impertinence, "...but if I could have an appointment at a time convenient to you to discuss a person, a certain Frau Sprengel..."

          Haeckel's eyes narrowed... he glanced towards the man who had called himself Basil as an ape began screaming oaths at us.

          "You may speak here, young man... this is Zaharoff, who is, well... a businessman. We have no secrets from one another."

          Unlike the rude Haeckel, Zaharoff took my hand with a rather commercial smile.

          "You must be the son of Richard Cameron in New York, are you not?  Basil and he have devoured many oysters with Mr. Morgan and General Westinghouse, too, while he lived... so, what are you American devils up to now?"

          "Interesting you should mention Morgan," I said, "he and my father are forming a syndicate to fund Dr. Vartanian..."

          "That is a venture I might wish to support," answered Basil Zaharoff, smoothly.

          "Basil is a most illumined fellow," Haeckel added, with what seemed an uncharitable smirk of resentment, "... he sponsors lion houses all over Europe. Noble creatures... so unlike these filthy anthropoids."

          "Dr. Haeckel has compared certain monkeys of the lower orders to Jesuits," Zaharoff remarked lightly, "he has yet to situate the Jews."

          "You know that Haeckel has!" Haeckel replied angrily and utterly without humor. "They are the fleas such apes pluck off their backs and devour, like the chestnuts our American friend proffers. But let us not speak of vermin, despite our surroundings - Haeckel visits this place, young man, to be reminded of what we are... not! How is Aleister Crowley by the way... four years ago we climbed Watzmann at Berchtesgaden together, on the fortieth anniversary of Haeckel's first ascent. Ach!... such diarrhea... but Mr. Crowley was amply provided with opium salts and, on the summit, Haeckel convinced him that Darwinism, Rome and even Christianity would all ultimately revert to their natures, the core of truth we fail to see for its swaddling of lies and superstition... life is of the sun and no more!"

          "And I..." the other remarked, "...have made a few suns in my day."

          "Why you..." I remembered, "you are the arms dealer! I have heard from... well, a visitor from Moscow..."

          "Yes," smiled Zaharoff, "the Tsar is always looking for more arms... especially those with which one may win yesterday's wars. But, Haeckel... who is that fellow entering the cage with a trunk of silks that could have come from the trousseau of the Empress Sofia herself?"

          "That is a trainer... watch!" said Haeckel, "...six days a week, at noon, the apes permit him to clothe them in gowns and neckties for the sweets with which he bribes them. One drinks tea out of a cup, another plays the harp and, of course, all are taught to dance... that activity of constricted brains..."

          Indeed they did all those things Haeckel had forewarned me of and more besides... the zookeeper watching contemptuously, I with what must have seemed a childish gaze and Zaharoff with amusement.

          "Only priests still defend the moral order of this world... Haeckel prefers the struggle for existence. He respects Guido von List, but it is as a pure carnivore that Aryan man shall reach his God-ordained fulfillment, not through insipid vegetarianism. That adaptation is a cause of survival... not its effect... a frog whose color matches leaves on which it dwells lives through camouflage... against those who do not, and die..."

          "I thought I heard a shot!" I cried, interrupting Haeckel, bringing the full bombast of his intellectual armaments to bear and earning a wrathful scowl.

          "It was probably one of those detestable auto-engines that spread from your America, like lice..."

          "No, he is right," Zaharoff said, "those were shots!"

          A half dozen figures had burst into the Affenhaus plaza; the sight of the trio causing their leader, a young man with great moustaches to fire into the air exuberantly, declaiming in Russian.

          "Those are Marxmen..." started the arms dealer, "Black Internationals, who've come to kill or to kidnap me..."

          "Go that way!" I pointed, vaulting the rail. The monkey house was locked from the outside, the latch simple to throw, and an army of bewigged, begowned and beknickered apes swarmed past me into the path of the Russian terrorists. I caught up with the two older men in a mob of fleeing tourists, passed them... then darted off the path to unlatch another cage... then another, setting a rearguard of elephants, jackals and kangaroos against our assailants.

          We reached the lionhouse ahead of the mob...

          "Cameron... no!" Haeckel protested. "They have not been fed..."

          "Then let them enjoy their borscht bloody-rare," I replied, pounding at the latch with the heel of my hand, for it was… understandably… stronger than all the others of Tiergarten. I saw the Russian with the moustache raise his pistol, but he was obstructed by the neck and head of a reindeer. "Didn't you compare the nobility of lions to that of apes?" I shouted. "If great cats are Godly, they shall sort out their victims according to His plan..."

          I ran along the row of predators, unlatching the cages of bears, boars… even the ostriches… and saw a wheezing Haeckel achieve the boulevard upon which a motorcar idled; its puzzled chauffeur awaiting the return of a wealthy patron. Haeckel pulled the fellow out by the lapels and felled him with a crisp blow, gesturing for Zaharoff and I to get in. Screams... human and beastly... and a volley of gunshots resonated from the zoo.

          "Quickly!" the zoologist urged.

          "I thought Haeckel considered the motorcar a creature of the Evil One..."

          "Haeckel sometimes lies!"

          The zoologist pressed his foot inexpertly down on the pedal and the motorcar chugged off, soon outpacing all but an apparently obsessed Bengali tiger who, ignoring the many plump Berliners screaming on the sidewalk, closed inexorably... Zaharoff hurled his hat and coat to distract the beast, ripped his shirt off, finally, his trousers... which the tiger attacked with gusto.

          "This is a man, Haeckel," Zaharoff remarked nakedly, rewarding any pedestrian who dared point with a withering scowl, "...I would give him that which he desires..."

          "Oh, Mr. Cameron shall get everything that is coming to him!" promised the zookeeper. "Cameron, you shall present yourself at seven in the evening in the bar of the Hotel Barbarossa."

          As soon as we were out of danger, I took leave of Haeckel, whose command of the motorcar was as perilous as his convictions were unrelenting. Changing my clothes and daubing iodine on scratches caused by random encounters with tooth and claw, I hired a cab so as to reach the great hotel fifteen minutes ahead of my appointment. Punctually at seven, Haeckel arrived.

          He removed from his briefcase a dark envelope festooned with ribbons, stamped provenances and broken seals - a document of important pedigree which, unfortunately, was almost wholly unreadable. "Most of this is Russian!" I protested, "and the rest is French... and I know less of that than German..."

          "That is a consequence of your ignorance... which, in the matter of French, is corollary to innocence. Great things are destined for America.  The British Empire is a sick cow beset by wolves... from Ireland and Scotland north to the Indies... east and west. This document includes the full confession of Frau Sprengel, amidst other revelations... Haeckel has acquired this copy from Muscovy authorities."

          "So everything does trickle back to Russia, I suppose..."

          "And that, young man, is the beginning of wisdom. These are identical copies, one for the English lodge of Mr. Crowley... and, after he has inspected and verified it, for Westcott... the other for certain Martinists whom Mr. Mathers shall direct you to. You do intend to stop over in Paris, don't you?"

          I remarked that I hadn't really given much thought to my future, being thoroughly occupied by survival in the present, such as it was... "But since it's on the way," I added, "perhaps you shall forgive me for availing myself of the opportunity..."

          "Nein, nein... Haeckel does not hate Gauls unconditionally," the zookeeper corrected himself, "...history and geography have placed us in each other's way, as Haushofer observes. France, after all, is the birthplace of Lamarck... Germany's shame is to have spawned this cockroach Kant. Haeckel is only humble foot soldier in the great weltkulturkampf... wherein all dualistic sophistry from Genesis to Marx must fall before the splendor of Monism and worship of the Sun, der Punkt! Go, young American... hasten with your weapon to level Albion's usurpers and slay its moony Fauns. We are the Obermen... such were not born subject to despotism of the weak and miserable. One blood, one plasm, one iron und will..."

          I finished my schnapps, shook the hand of the Monist hurriedly, and made my departure... Haeckl's treasure tightly between my fingers. I had made the acquaintance of many in my travels... some more dangerous and even a few, like Professor Planck, of keener intelligence, but none of these were more contradictory nor (until I encountered the Sar in Paris) stranger than Haeckel. I heard that, a while before he died, the Jesuits converted him to the Roman faith. Possibly, as a consequence, his soul was saved... or perhaps the black beetles (as Crowley liked to call them) were only enjoying their grand joke at the expense of the Monist King.

          When I boarded the Parisian Express the following morning, I gathered up several Berlin papers and saved some pertinent pages... once in Paris, I had the publishers' account of the liberation of Tiergarten's inhabitants translated and, so, learned that our tiger had been recaptured with nets but a gazelle, several birds and three monkeys, still in fashionable evening-dress, remained at large. "Being that, in no manner, did they differ from the rest of the Prussians," added the man who translated for me at Cafe Procope... a celebrated Parisian whose kindness to travelers did not extend to the subjects of the Kaiser.


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