Episode 27 - The Arsenal


          The following morning at the Hotel Alsace I started from my bed at a sharp rapping upon my door. Stumbling bleary-eyed, wincing from the battering I'd endured the night before, I opened it to find Melmoth and a formidable lady before me.

          "Here is your Princess, Cameron," the Englishman declared.

          I blinked. The Princess Radziwill was steel wool, not spun sugar... a tough old bird who, all in all, reminded me of my father's frightfully efficient secretary... I could do no more in her presence than nod, stammer and ask...

          "But what about the Russian?"

          "Dzhugashvili? Dismissed," the Princess said. "He told me what I needed of him, and was given twenty francs for his silence... he was, of course, only a hireling but an interesting one after his tongue loosened. And not a real Russian, rather a Georgian, I believe... one of those brought by with some so called Ascended Master with enormous moustaches, a criminal engaged in financing this partisan campaign against the Tsar. This will, I think, be an unhappy new century for empires... all of them! Not only have we the Exposition but Paris is filling up with all sorts... there's to be a Congress next week during which Socialists and Anarchists shall have at one another while the Royalists sit back and wait to sweep the carnage into the Seine. It shall be interesting to see where Monsieur Sorel ends up, or Peguy..."

          "Isn't that the one whose bookshop's windows are always broken since Dreyfus?" asked Melmoth. "I confess siding with Mallarme against Zola who states the tired Socialist conceit that dung and diamonds must stand equal, still... Mallarme replied... of the two, diamonds are certainly the rarer." And having finished with his political observation, the wandering exile disappeared, again, behind his issue of Le Soliel.

          "Oscar has told me you have Russian manuscripts which are what the Georgian was undoubtedly hired to pilfer... if you desire, I shall translate for you over breakfast for another thirty francs... that makes fifty besides, of course, the meal... I demand an excellent breakfast. Oscar... Sebastien rather, is easily taken advantage of here, but I am not..."

          "You are no Princess Sara!" I remarked, "...well, just give me a moment to dress."

          And I shut the door... but no oak could have kept the puzzlement of the Princess Radziwill from my ears. "Princess Sara? What the hell is that American talking about, Sebastien?"

          At the suggestion of the Princess we took a victoria to the venerable Abbaye de Theleme in Pigalle, not far from the Chat Noir, or its counterfeit, where, after an hour's repast, she put an end her labors... also to several plates of eggs and bacon, American toast and liters of strong coffee.

          "The French have dominated England in poetry and philosophy for a generation, but I still prefer their breakfasts," admitted Princess Radziwill, a crust of toast between her teeth.

          "No offense taken," Melmoth smiled, "I am a Dubliner and Mr. Cameron, here, is from the colonies."

          "So this, this now..." and she tapped the papers on the table before us, "these so-called Protocols... they are a sort of call to arms, a doctrine against Jews of a sort as common to Russia as here since Dreyfus. Still, some of these references bother me... it is not an honest document..."

          "Nor Hermetic?"

          "Save for the single insert of incantations in that copy bound for the Martinists but not your English coroner... no! But even a page of odd literature may be important. Now young man, what were your instructions?"

          "To deliver the copy with the grimoire to Papus... through Mathers... this afternoon."

          "The text refers to manuscripts kept in the Arsenal," reflected Princess Radziwill, "...I would recommend your going there before your meeting with this Mathers who is... I gather... another occultist?

          "My oath I believe permits me to answer that affirmatively.

          "Young man, I know all about your oaths and Order... I shall have you know that Maud Gonne and I, who went to Russia seeking liberty... well, and Cecil Rhodes, that double-crosser who had me thrown in jail over Basil... Zaharoff that is..."

          How fortunate my evenings of poker with brother-Wolfen at University! "I've heard of Zaharoff..." I remarked mildly. The Princess rewarded this with a contemplative, inspecting eye.

          "Then you also know wherever he shows up, war isn't far behind. Anyway, at the Arsenal you should inquire into the works of a certain Joly... Maurice I believe. What else are you looking for?"

          "A few old books of magic," I allowed off-handedly, "...and perhaps some writings on a certain German society..."

          "Didn't I tell you this was a cautious fellow," Melmoth spoke up "... for one so young, and so American too?" And my fellow tenant wagged a finger, puffy as a British sausage. "Most of us are far older before the true merits of secrecy reveal themselves."

          That which was revealed to me by the Librarian of the Arsenal... that complex which is to Parisians as the Smithsonian or British Museum stand to their own nationals.... was noteworthy in its own for, as I approached the desk with my letter from Princess Radziwill, that tall, balding individual in pince nez responded to my hand with the sign of the Wolf from University. I remarked that I was surprised the trivial rituals of student societies traveled so widely and this comment was met with remonstrance.

          "Don't be," the Librarian said. "Students are mostly the same even when separated by distance... or by time. Today they are pets of society, tomorrow they shall be its dinner... and a few of those may survive to wreak vengeance on coming generations. You have entangled yourself in an old and complicated difficulty, Mr. Cameron... I shall have books which you require set on that table and, if you need help over a word or phrase... I shall translate."

          So I proceeded to the place assigned to me and discovered three works already upon the table... a copy of Joly's "Dialogue et Enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu" (with an English translation, in manuscript), the Grimoire of Abra-Melin and an old German folio "Die Rot Tur", also with translation.

          "Is this the work of the Princess Radziwill?" I asked.

          "Some of those who observe and help have titles, others do not. As I have said, these complications are ancient," my host declared, "...the Louvre, for instance, began as a lodge for wolf-hunters in the middle ages, on the site of a Roman Lupara. Across the street there was a Templar keep from the thirteenth century, so the wolves and hunters could keep watch upon each other for six centuries until Napoleon had the keep pulled down, One of our Jacobins, by the way, kept a wolf who is buried at the cemetery in Asniers with Barbey's cat and the cheins of Saint Saens, Rostand and a woman whom you know as Gyp. Now... have you brought a revolver?"

          I remarked that I had not, nor even thought about doing so and the Librarian looked over his shoulder. "Men have come to this place whom I believe to be agents of the Okhrana, young man, Nikolai's secret police acting upon the orders of a certain Rachovskii working to discredit the Prime Minister Witte, Madame Blavatsky's cousin."

          I leaped towards a conclusion "Anti-Masons?"

          "We prefer to consider them Adepts, but of a different persuasion," replied the Librarian. "Rachovskii is suspected of being the true author of these so-called Protocols, or at least the man who paid for their construction out of bits and pieces of Joly, a satirist. But see for yourself."

          And then time slowed as I glanced between documents, slowed to a crawl in that draughty old Arsenal. The Protocols were quite numerous; of them I especially remember a fifth, advocating world government under a Jewish King... the seventh; control of the press, also the schools... the ninth... and world finance... the twentieth. Inevitably my attention was drawn to a contention that all Masons and goyim... by which the Zionists meant not only unbelievers but Christians also... were to be disposed of, death being their inevitable end.

          Those whose tactics of deception to bring this about would ultimately lead to self-deception were... "The class of people who most willingly enter into societies, those who live by their wits; careerists and in general people, mostly light-minded, with whom we shall have no difficulty in dealing and in using to wind up the mechanism of the machine devised by us."

          From such sentiments I turned to the remaining documents, no less interesting, and by the great old clock of the Arsenal it was two in the afternoon when I again solicited the helpful librarian. "I am having some difficulty with this Abra-Melin," I admitted, rather ashamed of myself.

          "Unfortunately he is as incomprehensible in French as in English. This," the Librarian said comparing the insertion with the text "...seems to be a sort of recipe for making men, but the copyist has tinkered with the original, for there are mesmeric references... also certain names seem to be variant."

          "Well I only mentioned it because a page of this stuff... in Russian... has been slipped into one of the documents I have been commissioned to deliver, but not the other. Curious! Probably just the sort of light-minded conjurings the Protocols deride... the Vehmic records are more interesting..."

          "They always have been... that!..." said the Librarian as if inviting my interpretation.

          "Being German... well they are rather as hard on Charlemagne as I suppose we ought to be upon George III... but, in this translation," I pointed, "as opposed to these others, Charlemagne is named as founder of the order. Having exiled some thirty thousand Saxons and replenished what we now call the Ruhr with Christianized Gauls... rather like the clearings in Scotland and in Ireland... it would seem he employed the Vehm as agents of provocation to enact atrocities that would justify further persecutions both of Franks and Germans. At some point, either shortly before or just after his death, he seems to have quite lost control, so his sons drove the Order underground... they feared its strength. Some of this is compounded by little differences in words," I pointed " this."

          "That? Ah..." and the Librarian adjusted his pince-nez, "...the one is die Wissenden, that is the knowers or illumined ones and this other is Witzen, to punish... yes, probably much of history, paid for in blood and heroics and deceit, has later been altered, even stood upside-down, by some monk wielding nothing more than a goose-quill..."

          "Take these away," I gestured towards the books with a sigh. "I can stand no more for the time being, besides... I have an audience with a Praemonstrator."


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