For the first time since a boyish dare impelled me to remove the skull of Wampanoag from its dungeon, the future was out of my hands... I stood alone, disinherited, alien, as much a stranger to New York as to its aboriginal American tribes. With the few dollars remaining in my pocket I enjoyed a leisurely meal at Delmonico's, then proceeded to the gallery of Steiglitz where, as arranged, Pamela Smith awaited my return. Steiglitz had not yet received the acclaim his photography would bring in later years... he seemed content running his gallery, dabbling in photography. I should have accepted his offer to take a picture of myself with Pixie... it would have been a souvenir of my occult adventures, a means of proving they were more than just tall tales from an old fellow with too much time on his hands.

Pixie Smith told a few Jamaican stories, Stieglitz provided claret so she told another and we were, consequently, tardy in arriving at the Metropolitan Opera. Glossing over my personal difficulties, I paid for Pixie's ticket and my own, even the cheapest of seats high in the balcony left me with but fifteen cents in my pocket... the performances had already commenced and we entered to strains of the Marche au Supplice of Berlioz.

"This is all that survives of his Vehmic Opera," I told my companion. "Long before conceiving his Fantastic Symphony, Berlioz began les Francs Juges, but the work was so interrupted by numerous odd circumstances that he finally abandoned it and the drafts... save those parts reformed years after... quite disappeared. His librettist Ferrand... a devout Catholic... died thirty years ago, after his adopted son murdered his wife, so we may agree that the opera was born under a curse and died treacherously."

"I understand," replied Pamela Smith. "The confluence of certain musical tones and sentiments with evil entities is taken for granted all over the Caribbean."

Morgan and his confederates had engaged the great Hall to ring in the new century with short programmes from luminaries of dance, theatre and music... even a few declamations, besides the cinematography. The financier himself held court in his famous Box 35, with an entourage that included Rockefellers, a visiting Rothschild, an Archbishop, and Vice President-elect Roosevelt, a former Police Chief of New York. I saw my father there, also, and with him, Vartanian... with his hawk upon his shoulder... nodding across the orchestra to Stanford White in Box Nine, between the Astors and one branch of the Belmont family.

At eleven minutes to midnight, the famed actor Gillette took stage, holding palms up against the applause that greeted his appearance. "Thank you!" replied the man whom New York had taken to heart already as successor to Henry Irving... a man perceived as belonging to that century quickly receding into the past. "Thank you. To paraphrase Dr. Watson's observance, upon the disappearance of Holmes over Reichenbach Falls with the fiend Moriarty in his grasp... it is with heavy hearts that we approach the aria of Madam Calve to mark the century's end, and the beginning of the year nineteen hundred... also the centenary of the funeral of George Washington. But before Madam's 'Carmen', it is my special pleasure to introduce a kinetograph of the forthcoming Exposition of Paris, City of Lights!"

The hall dimmed, a great white screen lowered, and music sprang up... the "Dance of Death" by old Saint Saens. The crowd stirred uneasily when a title appeared upon screen... "Death of an Anarchist By Vartanian Current!"... when next appeared a cell in the Bastille someone shouted out "That is no Exposition!" others responding with cries of "Silence!". The music sped to its ghastly climax as an object... distant, at first, as had been the skull of Wampanoag upon my approach in the Ossuary less than four months previous... enlarged and finally stood revealed as a condemned man, strapped to a chair of thick, rough wood with leather straps binding his wrists and ankles. The volume of music diminished, allowing sounds of scuffling and struggling to be heard, and then the mouth of the criminal moved, sawing this way and that. From the corners of the Opera a torrent of French profanity issued forth, a gust which shocked the audience more for its novelty than its content.

"Where was Monsieur Melies able to fit a whole French orchestra into this place?" Pamela whispered, for the musicians still milled about, unpacking their instruments so to accompany Madam Calve's aria.

"There is no orchestra," I answered. "Melies recorded the screams of the prisoner on an Edison cylinder while filming this execution and then re-recorded using three devices... a source of music, the last words of the condemned and another cylinder to record both."

A collective gasp rent the Opera as, onscreen, a jailer silenced the unknown anarchist with a rag in his mouth. Still the man's vain strugglings persisted. An angry hum rose from the private boxes... I even observed one of the disreputable friends to whom Vanderbilt had sublet Box Six lean over the railing to curse August Belmont, one of Vartanian's patrons, in Box Four.

"Melies is a master illusionist," I said to Pamela Smith, "but what happens next is no trick, it is unfortunate reality. Avert your eyes if you feel faint..."

"Nonsense!" Pixie replied, "...I saw many horrible things while growing up in Jamaica; I certainly can stomach a French execution..."

"Not of this sort..." I warned.

The jailers stepped aside like Shakespearean messengers and Deibler, the Executioner, stepped forth... that merry fellow who drank with Melies and Toulouse-Lautrec. There was a rupture... a common jump cut from the whole man in his hood to Deibler's hand, a cinematographic trick common enough these days but, for the time less than five decades ago, this was black magic. The hand threw a switch and the hissing and snapping of Vartanian current was as captured in sound as was the anarchist by his chains... the prisoner began writhing as his head smoked and the veins on his neck burst through the skin. "Sacre bleu!" remarked an unseen witness. Black smoke arose from the anarchist's scalp as the murmurings of Opera patrons swelled to angry cries and their expressions turned horrible but the operator of the cinematograph had been prepared... he turned up the volume of Melies' device as the dying man spit out his bloody gag... screams and a hideous death rattle joining with Saint Saens in a tarantella of the condemned. As he finally slumped silent the music rose to its crescendo... and, just to ensure the audience remembered who had been the agent of this infamy, the closing title repeated and embellished the opening credits...


Death of an Anarchist by Vartanian Current!


Un film por G. Melies, Montreiul

When the lights came on, a man in the orchestra rose, pointed to Morgan's box and shouted...

"That's the devil... up there!"

A thousand heads, enraged, turned with him. "Down with Vartanian!" someone cried.

"Long live Edison's current..." another called back.

And that was the last we could understand or I can, with a clear conscience, repeat. A torrent of noise and invective was launched at the inhabitants of the unfortunate box, "Fiend!" and "Murderer!" being only two of the most polite oaths. Morgan recoiled from his protege coldly, following his example Richard Cameron did also... even Vartanian's hawk took flight from the inventor's shoulder and began to circle the hall, shrieking... the inventor, rising, glowered at his patrons.

"You are not Christians at all," he charged my father and the others, "but rather fanatical Mussoulmen!"

And in his ridiculous high cork heels and chimneylike hat the defeated scarecrow stalked off, shoving angry theatre patrons aside - his hawk circling in ever-widening gyres, screeching as perhaps Willie Yeats heard of, all the way back in Ireland... perhaps through Pixie or through Waite, to whom she returned for a time after the Steiglitz exhibition to draw his Tarot.

As for Vartanian... well, he went mad and, though he still survives, lives now as an ancient eccentric in the Waldorf with pigeons as his only friends. The gyre of his falcon's genius widened beyond reason's pale... he is an object, at the last, of pity or contempt. Willie Yeats is dead eight years now, having indeed become an Irish politician of General O'Duffy's Blueshirt persuasion... suspect for his Nazi apologies but not derided so vehemently as Pound, nor Wyndham Lewis or Charles Vierek. His reputation shall most likely recover as, before death took him, he renounced Hermeticism and all the moonishness of youth...grasping his rosary, as Chesterton, saying "He whose name is Legion is at our doors deceiving our intellects with subtlety, and we have no trust but in Thee..."

Most other Adepts have also passed through the veil... Twain and Stoker, Florence Farr... of the cancer in Ceylon... and Mathers, to whom Yeats dedicated an elegy after the so-called Great War turned out to be only a prelude to our current epoch of catastrophe.


"I thought him half a lunatic, half knave,


And told him so; but friendship never ends..."

And in a later essay, Yeats even put on the Praemonstrator's mask... saying "All my life I have seen myself in dreams, making a man by some means like that. When I was a child I was always thinking out contrivances for galvanising a corpse into life."

It may be the Golden Dawn that's a corpse now... lesser mortals gnawing at its bones as rats that follow the jackals that follow wolves, who pounce on the kill once lions have eaten their fill... I believe that a credible chapter does survive in the Antipodes. A few accompanied Crowley to re-establish an Abbey of Theleme in Italy... after that venture failed, one penned a sad, unintentionally hilarious account of quarrelsome days in dank Frogmore, UK, surviving upon "...dismal soups of half-cooked barley and whole cabbage leaves, like green linoleum..." blindly attempting to rekindle extinguished Vestal fires.

"All that's beautiful drifts away," lamented Yeats, "like the waters." And only poetry left to hold the bridge.

Incredibly, Dr. Encausse died a heroic death in the Great War, while the unfortunate Sar Peladan was dispatched to Paradise by a more ignoble agent not long after Armistice... a bad oyster of Montmarte. Most merry Parisians had danced their way into early graves by that time... Jarry and Lautrec before the end of the first decade of this century, along with that unhappy exile who called himself Sebastien Melmoth... Satie, Proust and Claude Debussy following a few years after. The surviving society of congenials departed Montmarte and fled across the Seine to the Left Bank for some years before Winnetou, like Ubu with a comic moustache, snuffed out their candle.

A generation after these events took place, Paul Morand dismissed the fin du siecle as a wax museum of the sort of moral turpitude denounced by Balzac: "The world had begun to live on its nerves. It was given up to drugs and women; never has the body been so insistent; there was worship of sex, of the hair; a fetishism of underclothing, boots and furs. The languor of Turkish baths, that renaissance of forbidden pleasures which appears whenver blood is about to flow; pity which is cowardice and a taste for crime."

Sax Rohmer's made a fair living from crime, of course, as did Machen... who used Yeats for his "Man with Spectacles" as Yeats reduced Mathers to Michael Robartes. The fortunes of George Melies rose and fell with cinematography... he never did deign to employ sound on film for commercial purposes and was bankrupted by those who did... I hear he ended up selling candy and cigars from a kiosk in Montmarte, a bitter man, contemptuous of those who came after... Chaplin, Houdini... as counterfeits and thieves. In sixteen years he had made over five hundred films, of which perhaps ninety survive... the first act of Ubu not among them. In 1912 he produced and starred in his last film, "Knight of the Snows" in which he rescues his beloved from the Black Knight by gazing into a rose.

Rachilde, like Maud Gonne, survives... a couple of sharp old maids they are; Pixie, after drawing Waite's Tarot, converted to the Catholic faith and retired to the Cornish coast to open a hotel for weary priests. Crowley designed a Tarot too as a reply to Waite... incredibly he's still about, still in the thick of mischief though quite bald and large about the middle... rather like the comedian W. C. Fields is Perdurabo now, have I already said so? He did settle for a while in Sicily with Marinetti, the self-styled "caffeine of Europe" but had a falling out with the Futurist statesman Mussolini and was deported, his Rabelaisan Academy closed humiliatingly. The French kicked him out too... they apparently thought a coffee machine he brought back from Cefalu was some sort of a bomb. During wartime, he exploited his connections with German lodges to engage in a bit of intrigue with Winnetou's deputy Hess, a son of Nevil Maskelyne... whose Egyptian Hall fell forfeit as a consequence of the disastrous failure of "The Coming Race"... an American of the name of Hubbard who, like Wells, Villiers and Lytton, writes scientific romances on the side and a British spy by the name of Fleming... Ian Fleming. The authorities haven't quite made their mind up whether my old landlord was a spy or a patriot, whether to knight him, hang him... or both. But that's another tale, and to be told at another time.

Three weeks after my arrival in New York, a brief obituary was listed for John Ruskin, a British architect, invalid for the last decade. No mention was made, a few months after, of the reported demise of Friedrich Nietzsche though... thanks to Winnetou... everybody knows him now.

I hear, only tonight, that the Japanese city of Hiroshima was, yesterday, annihilated by an explosion brighter than that of a thousand suns. Perhaps tens of thousands blasted into the Azur, or what the Dragons call it, and it's believed Emperor Hirohito prepares to sign articles of surrender... it was not Vartanian's device, after all, but fulfillment of the ghastly potential of the atom - that door to the unknown men varied as Max Planck, Edison, H. G. Wells and even Arthur Machen hinted at which has been flung askew. Now, we all stand on the lip of the dragon's bowl.

And I... I have become my own father, an investor, developer of better people's energies, despised by my own sons, one of whom asked, after the fashion of the youth of Europe Paul Morand recalled... "How is it you could have been so simply bourgeois while pretending to seem dangerous, to bare your teeth yet leave the war to us... to be so ugly, so absurd and so happy?" And I have replied badly, I fear... renouncing my youth and, with it, youthful hopes transient as the cardboard palaces of the Paris Exposition of which naught survives save ruined cardboard and plaster, a few old photographs, some faded dreams. So lies the way to our futures, as Hamlet might have charged Horatio had they been moderns (or at least alive in the days of the fin du siecle) - neither in Ninevah nor evening's stars but in ourselves, mere survivors of a deluge, tossed brutishly upon Reason's shore under the first pink crepuscules of a Golden Dawn.


Arthur Cameron, Oyster Bay, New York

August 7, 1945





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