Episode 26 - MELMOTH!


          I pushed my door open and almost collapsed upon the two strangers within. One, a young man with thick moustaches, lay trussed and gagged on the floor, the other reclined on my bed.

          "Mr. Cameron..." this person spoke, "I am a tenant of this hotel who heard noises and discovered this young fellow engaged in an attempt to commit burglary. He is a Russian, I think... speaks neither French nor English, or will not admit it. These are his papers."

          I inspected the passport contents of the wallet of one Iosef Dzhugashvili, a stranger. "And you?" I remarked.

          "Call me Melmoth," said the gentleman who had violated my quarters, "Sebastien Melmoth... a humble wanderer forsaken by God. He had these under his arm when I intercepted him."

          And the man returned to me my Protocols... rather, those destined for deliverance to Encausse and Westcott. At the sight of them the trussed-up man swore copiously... the words may have been foreign but their malign intent burned quite plainly.

          "Probably hired by someone... but who?" I wondered aloud. "I am too worn out to pursue this... have you called the police?"

          "Unfortunately I am not on speaking terms with the police of Paris, as with those of a number of other places..." Melmoth admitted.

          "Just as well. Did the man have a weapon?"

          In reply, Sebastien Melmoth held up a lethal dagger of a sort common beyond the Bosporous... intricately decorated with occult symbols, but without the Vehmic inscription. Enraged despite... or probably because of the hour, I hauled Dzhugashvili to his feet.

          "If it's money you want, my friend, I shall make you a proposal... but tomorrow, after I've slept and found someone to translate for us. Monsieur Melmoth," I appealed, "are you aware of any persons in this city who speak Russian and English?"

          "There would be the Princess Radziwill if she has not yet gone south to Provence..." he replied, placing his chin in the grip of his extraordinarily large fingers.

          "Well I dare not inconvenience a Princess," I replied "...even one whom is known to Maud Gonne..."

          "She is at least as in need of money as this fellow. How do you know Maud?" Melmoth ventured, " she in Paris?" He frowned. "Has Willie Yeats followed in her wake?"

          "All of them, and more also."

          "No person desires seeing an old friend in disgrace," sighed the trespasser. "But they were among the few who did not help to drive me out of London, so that must count for something..."

          It seeming somehow that I had involved myself in an affair of some regret, I hastened to make amends. "I owe you a drink... at the very least? Shall we go out for absinthe?"

          "Everyone assumes that, because I am hiding out in Paris," Sebastien Melmoth grimaced, "I am a connoisseur of the green fairy... that is, Artemisia absinthium... actually, I drink it only because visitors constantly press it upon me. There should be decent cognac downstairs, Dupoirier will add it to my bill."

          "But it is I who owe you..."

          "You have made me useful, if only for an hour," declared this large, sad man who would be interred in his grave before I was to discern his identity, " cannot fathom what this means to me. Let's bring the Russian gentleman to my room; I prefer to sit up nights... and he is rather comely in the rough way that so often has led me into disaster."

          Melmoth slipped his hands gently under Dzhugashvili's elbows and I grasped the Russian's ankles after securing the gag, so that he would not cry out, and we trundled our prisoner down the hall, past doors of sleeping dreamers.

          "You are an enigma, Monsieur Melmoth," I stated.

          "I am... and an incorrigible too!" he answered with hauteur enough for any bewigged, bepowdered Comtesse that still populates the Paris of our dreams... erased now, in the stench of two wars. "Rub some of Monsieur Dupoirier's brandy into those bruises, toss another shot down... sleep, and tomorrow I shall bring a Princess to you who shall solve this mystery."

          Melmoth's room overlooked a moonlit garden, three rare black irises standing guard in crystal on the exile's sill. We dropped the bound and squirming Russian to the carpet, closing our ears against his muffled oaths.

          "Paris is a remarkable city," I was moved to sentiment.

          "It is!" replied Sebastien Melmoth. "O yes! Cameron... that it is!"


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