Episode 28 - MATA HARI'S DANCE of the VEILS


          If the Librarian was impressed by Mathers' rank he showed little envy, I shook the dust of Arsenal off my clothes, consumed only coffee and cake in lieu of dinner, so not to further cloud my senses, and arrived within the hour at the door of the Temple Ahathoor on the Rue Mozart where my knock was answered by Mathers' wife, Moira.

          "My name is Arthur Cameron," I introduced myself, "...I have the documents for Papus, whom the Praemonstrator told me he would hold."

          Madame Mathers seemed to have only recently stumbled from bed, as evidenced by the dishevelment of her hair and clothes. Perhaps this was an affect of Bohemianism. "Oh," she remarked, "that is... nice... Zan is in the temple, preparing incense for our Isis rites... I will tell him you're here. I am Moira, but as my hermetic name is Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum... most Adepts simply call me Vestigia, even Vess."

          "Aren't you the philosopher's sister?" I inquired, rather boldly. "A curious fellow, Monsieur Jarry... short, involved with theaters, told me Bergson inspired him at the Lycee with his discourses on "Laughter"..."

          "That one who wrote Ubu? Henri would be pleased," she remarked with evident sarcasm, "to hear that he bears the responsibility for that! Let me call Zan..."

          Once she had disappeared behind a beaded curtain, I took the opportunity to make the sort of examination I had done in the Sar's gallery, inspecting the outer offices of the Temple Ahathoor. It was a sort of curio shop of stuffed bears and lynxes, duelling swords and Oriental vases high as a man's scalp. A coffin rested on wheels and, bending over to inspect it, I apparently startled a young lady in silks and chiffon enjoying a sort of nap therein.

          "O monsieur..." she started, bolting from her confinement with many flounces and gestures.

          "It's alright," I tried to calm her, "perfectly all right... I've grown quite used to this..."

          "But... you are not English?" the Praemonstrator's ghoul accused.

          "No... an American. Arthur Cameron, at your service. And you..."

          "Margaretha MacLeod, just a Scots girl... not very proper though," she giggled, closing her lid of confinement behind her. She put a hand to her mouth. "Have you been sent by Rudolph..."

          "Whom?" I asked.

          "The Captain... my husband... he's followed me from Java to kill me so I had to come here... he's already poisoned our son. He has that disease that begins here..." and Margaretha boldly placed a bejeweled wrist upon my groin, stroking it through the wool, "then proceeds up to here..."

          Her hand traced a lascivious path up to my forehead which she tapped... twice... reminding me of those rumours that the Praemonstrator supplemented his occult earnings with those of that sort of a procurer whom Parisiens call "lapines", even to the extent of leasing out his wife... accusations Yeats spoke of with disgust and Crowley regarded admiringly. But here came MacGregor Mathers himself, in whose presence I suppressed my curiosity as Margaretha tamed her inclinations.

          "Mister Cameron... you have the Protocols, I presume? Dr. Encausse will be by after our performance... Rita! save yourself for paying customers, Mr. Cameron's a guest. No, don't go back into that coffin, I have an idea!"

          He seized the document, flipping the pages with a broad smile.

          "Russian! Can't make out a word of it so it ought to be just what Papus is looking for. You've come through, Cameron... you deserve promotion! Let's say we make you Theoricus."

          "Mr. Crowley said I might be promoted to Zelator within six weeks of my return, and after completing all the reading..."

          "Crowley does what I tell him," the Praemonstrator interrupted, "and you, Arthur, all you need do is lie still in this coffin and answer my questions. Not to worry, they're all ritual, none of Aleister's tricks, and we'll rehearse before the show."

          "What show?" I asked. "Is there to be a circle of twelve?"

          "Leave the details to me... I am Praemonstrator of the Golden Dawn which had ought to count for something in this world, if not to Westcott. S'Rioghil est mi dhream! By sundown you'll be... a Zelator then, next week Theoricus... and then we'll go off to Ubu, then eat. How I love Paris!"

          It appeared Mathers, like Crowley, opened ceremonies of Temple Ahathoor to paying spectators. Probably the Beast, whom I was more kindly disposed towards since my Alpine rescue, had borrowed the habit from his tutor... and if he, Yeats or another took offense at my rapid rise through the ranks, it would be something worth sorting out in London... after I'd delivered the Protocols (and their insertion) to Coroner Westcott.

          By and by guests started arriving and, having put to memory the phrases Mathers gave me, I entered the coffin and the lid was closed. Reminding myself to visit Cafe Neant before returning to London, I concentrated on that which I could hear through wood, and gradually became aware that I was the centerpiece of a good-natured medley of paying customers from France, the English speaking lands and other places - eight of whom apparently paid a premium to be admitted into the circle with Zan and Vess, MacLeod and a spirited Parisian Adept who'd introduced himself as Jules Bois.

          "Fellow neophyte Hermeticists," the Praemonstrator's voice boomed through the thin wood, "I begin the ritual of Zelatorship, the first grade of initiation after one receives his occult instructions... or hers, for we are a progressive Order."

          "Ist dis du Sundenboch?" I heard one interrupt in the heavy tones of a Berliner, reminding me of my zoological adventure.

          "He asks if this man is to be sacrificed," Mathers translated, ", unfortunately, not tonight... that is a special rite for which the admission is ten francs. A little humor..." and the Praemonstrator paused to allow his gallery to laugh with him.

          Instead, another in American-accented English queried "Is that lady going to take off her clothes?"

          "Wait..." Mathers counseled, "...and watch! First, the promotion ritual... we'll all ask the questions together, they're on the papers I've given you and if you don't speak English, just pronounce them, syllable by syllable. Fraters et Sorores, the Neophyte Altius Resurgre, having made such progress in the paths of Occult Science as enables him for advancement to Zelatorship - Soror Vestigia, bring the Neophyte his Hermetic Cross!"

          Vestigia leaned over my coffin, held an iron swastika up for the gallery to wonder at, then laid it upon my chest.

          "The Hermetic Cross," said Mathers' wife, "also called the Fylfot, Hammer of Thor, or Swastika, is formed of seventeen squares of the greater square of twenty five. Frater Altius, give the Seventeen Reasons Why, the holy, secret names of God that open paths between the Good, under Archangel Metatron, and Evil of Archangel Samael."

          "These Seventeen," I recited as Mathers had instructed, "represent the Sun, Four Elements and Twelve Zodiacal Signs."

          "The Company shall join in reciting three Sacred Names of God to disperse the Qlipperoth or Evil Demons who inhabit the planet contiguous to and just below the Material Universe... Emor! Dial! Hectega!"

          "Heck!" I heard the American cry out again, "when's that lady up there going to take off her clothes?" What disciplinary measure Mathers took upon the upstart I could not see from the coffin but it was short, loud and, evidently, effective for the Praemonstrator again called out "Emor! Dial! Hectega!"

          And this time our audience responded... "Emor! Dial! Hectega!"

          Jules Bois briefly passed above, swinging his censer so that clouds of reeking incense burned my eyes and throat while the lamps of Temple Ahathoor were dimmed and red candles lit for Rita's dance of the veils. And so, because I was obliged to repose like one dead, I missed my only opportunity to observe the dance of she who later would be better known as Mata Hari, whose wartime indiscretion with a German officer would have a tragic result despite the intercession of illuminists, not excluding Debussy himself. Colette, the wife of that critic Willy, who fought with Satie the night before, later divorced him to begin a career of her own... she concurred with Isadora Duncan that Rita was only a mediocre dancer... my absurd position in the absurd ritual of Temple Ahathoor prevents me from either confirming or refuting this assessment. The response of its paying guests was positive, enthusiastic even, but I do not know whether the Praemonstrator, like his student Crowley, was in the habit of dulling the faculties of his clientele with potions from a Loving Cup.

          Another coincidence... if it be so... Margaretha's body was taken forthwith from the firing squad to a Coroner for dissection by medical students and so reported lost. Another enterprise of the League of European Coroners?

          At any rate, my eyes burned only from candlesmoke and incense when MacGregor Mathers presented himself at the foot of my coffin. "Thou has taken the oath of Zelator, transcending all the realms of the material. Seekers of the path between light and darkness," the Praemonstrator offered, turning his back to present me with a view of the leopard-skin robe, "I am available for counsel Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment. Photographs of the lovely Rita... priestess of heat and light... are two francs; appointments to receive her Merciful Influx or Vestigia's Influx of Severity also may be made."

          I heard a shuffling of feet and the openings and closings of the door, but Mathers had been firm in obtaining my promise to remain becoffined until his own signal. So there I remained as the last paying guest departed, through the entrance of Dr. Encausse, also known as Papus... that Martinist who, from his words, appeared to have the manners of a French lawyer. Out of the corner of my eye I could perceive Mathers swigging greedily from a flask of brandy.

          "Your astral body never shall be reconciled with physicality so long as your spiritual advisers are grapes," Dr. Encausse scolded the Praemonstrator.

          "Bacchus, dear Papus, is wiser than Minerva and stronger than Thor...

          "Where are the Protocols?" Papus demanded in his lawyer's voice.

          "Cameron!" Mathers bellowed and I was gratified to reply from the depths of the coffin.

          "Can I get out of here?"

          I had been using the documents as a pillow... rising, I must have seemed a spectre appearing to present them to Encausse as a gift from the Great Beyond.

          "Does he read Russian?" I asked Mathers.

          "I do," replied the fierce little doctor, "...and English and many other tongues also, for who knows what bodily form the King of Heaven takes?"

          "Papus and the other Martinists about... Peladan among them, Jules here and a doggedly sensualist Count de Guaita, who passed over two years back... worked for Merovingian restoration until the death of their last Pretender, Chambourg. Since they now lack candidates for the throne of Louis the Sixteenth," Mathers allowed, "they've transcended the search for the Seventeenth Louis on to loftier ambitions, preparing for a King of the whole world..."

          "Or we shall make one!" Papus began but Margaretha brushed up against the mage, smiling as she collected her scarves.

          "Don't forget Tuesday's recital at Neant!" When she had departed he winked at Papus. "Admit it... you desire her, but I forget... you marry them..."

          "I am a Christian occultist," the doctor replied stiffly. "And now, are these the Protocols?"

          "They are!" I responded with, as I recall, some offense... of which Papus took no account of at all as he stuffed the Protocols into his very large, very lawyerly satchel.

          "You are a resourceful fellow," the Martinist admitted, "Mathers tells me you..."

          The rest was lost to a knock... Papus yanking a revolver from his briefcase. He trained it upon the door, then gave me a glare of positively demonic aspect, growling "Your Zelator must have sold us out to the Russians!"

          I remained quite incapable of improving my predicament, but before Papus could fire a voice called out from behind the door.


          "It is only my brother-in-law," sighed the Praemonstrator. "Jules!"

          Margaretha, more or less clothed by now, passed we three conspirators with a wave; Vestigia followed into the temple and Jules Bois ushered in a scholarly, reproachful man... the sourest Professor of Comedy it ever has been my pleasure to behold! He embraced his sister warmly enough but regarded the rest of us as do those whose obligations include the succor of disagreeable relations and their entourages... the look he gave Margaretha would drive a clown to church.

          "Henri... you of course know Dr. Encausse... and this is Arthur Cameron, from New York," Moira introduced hastily. "We've reserved Verlaine's table at Procope," she remarked with an air of importance.

          I shook Professor Bergson's hand rather enthusiastically. "I have read several of your essays in translation, Monsieur, and, in fact, was on my way to a premiere by your pupil Jarry... he told me in that manner of his that he owes all Ubu to your essay on Laughter."

          "I suppose our community shall blame me for Jarry too," the philosopher of humor remarked icily, " writes on values and sentiments, hardly expecting to be taken literally. I so often underestimate the foolish and ridiculous..." and he glanced from Papus to Mathers, "...but as a scholar I suppose I am fortunate to have so much source material. Coming, Moira?"

          Vestigia kissed Zan as the vril-ya do, without affection, and departed with her brother under the stern eye of Papus. Margaretha MacLeod had nimbly disappeared, like the spy she would become, leaving behind her only brilliant but now-bedraggled ribbons.

          "I at least admit and divorce my errors... you compound your misery at having married a Jew by remaining in that state of deconsecration. It is the cause of your drinking... Mr. Cameron, were you aware those so-called Jews of Bergson's sort are not at all the noble Israelites of Solomon's time but usurpers who crawled out of the muck of Roman decadence? We have great forces of magnetism that circulate in Aryan bloodstreams; with this..." and he gave his briefcase a mighty shake, "...we shall reclaim our heritage and destiny, we..."

          "Mister Mathers, have you any gold for me? Mister Mathers?"

          A withered woman with the sharp, greedy eyes of a bird had wandered into the Temple Ahathoor unbidden, through the door left open either by Margaretha or the Bergsons... Mathers turned her round physically with his great-knuckled hands...

          "Not today Madame but soon... soon..."

          And as the Praemonstrator guided her off, Papus and I stood staring at one another until I heard the door firmly closed. Mathers, on his return, lifted flask to his lips and drank with a challenging grimace.

          "Some enemy has informed all of the peasants in this old tenement that I near the Alchemists' objective of spinning gold from straw... they are an unceasing obstruction. That one pesters me especially... she has delusions that phantoms creep into her bed, certain nights, in the aspect of decaying corpses. Very bad taste... on both sides!"

          And Mathers withdrew an envelope of dried peas from his bureau, setting a drinking glass atop a number of cardboard placards upon the altar. "I'll subject them... and the renegade Hermeticists who guide them... to my Punitive Current!"

          "Might that have something to do with the Horos couple?" I remarked off-handedly.

          "Well that... ah... they may no longer be quite so important as several weeks back. I shouldn't worry about them... and you may assure Dr. Westcott!" the Praemonstrator snarled, grasping the first of the peas. "Yes, Cancellarius... you may be proud of your little spy. Now I anabaptize thee in the name of the Secret Chiefs!"

          He dropped pea into glass, shaking it so violently that his robes fell askew, sweat poured down his brow pasting his thinning hair to his scalp. Papus, with an agreeable smirk, raised the briefcase containing Protocols and revolver, among other artifacts... "We have all we need! Adieu!"

          Mathers took no notice of the departure of Dr. Encausse. "Frater DEDI, I anabaptize thee..."

          "And I'd better be off to the Theatre," I said by way of excusing myself. "Perhaps we'll meet after Ubu... I've heard it's the sort of drama people talk about."

          "In the name of the Secret Chiefs!" Mathers finished. "And you... American... protect yourself! I have heard theatre audiences in Montmarte can be more dangerous than Apaches who frequent the Cafe des Assassins!" He placed a third pea in the glass with its brothers. "Soror Sapienta, I anabaptize thee in the name..."


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