Daily Moon Phases

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The West Window.

From, Angel of the West Window, by Gustav Meyrink:

     "A wild horde of dark thoughts rushed down upon me: Lady Sissy? Who was she?! Who else but Princess Shotokalungin! And she is: Who else but Black Isais!! - Bartlett Greene's Black Isais!! - The veil was suddenly rent apart and the hidden realm of the Powers of Darkness opened up, the realm which John Dee had sold his soul; and after him the unknown author, who in fear and trembling, made annotations in John Dee's diary in which every word is a shriek of terror; and after him my cousin, John Roger; - and after him - myself, who have asked Lipotin to do all he can to help me fulfill the Princess' strange desire.
     My friend opposite me slowly sat up in his chair. His face seemed brighter but his body less clear than before. As he spoke, his voice lost its physicality, its tone of spatial presence; he whispered: "Thou art the last Bearer of the Arms. The rays from the green mirror
of things past
are gathering on the crown of thy head.
Burn or preserve! But do not squander!
The alchymy of the soul ordains metamorphosis or death.
Choose as thou wilt..."

"All this happened yesterday evening precisely as I have recorded it on these pages. It seems that I am being drawn ever deeper into the hidden chain linking my life with the fate of John Dee, my ancestor. And now the "Green Glass" he spoke about in his diary is in my hand. And where did I get the green mirror from?"

("The mystery of 'Let there be light' unfolded step by step, just as in the days of creation!"
"Quite right, my dear sir. If you move too quickly out of the benign darkness into the brightness, you will ruin your eyes."
"...but glancing around the room, my eye was suddenly caught by the dull golden glow of a beautifully carved, antique Florentine frame, around a spotted, clouded mirror. I gave it a close examination and could immediately see that it was excellent, very painstaking and yet sensitive workmanship from the seventeenth century. The frame appealed to me so much that I felt an immediate urge to have it in my possession.
'I see you have already found one of the pieces that arrived yesterday', said Lipotin and came over to me, 'but the worst one. It's valueless.'
'The mirror, you mean? That certainly.'
'The frame as well,' said Lipotin. His face, greenish in the rays of the lamp, was suffused with a reddish glow as he inhaled deeply on the cigar in his mouth.
'The frame?' I hesitated. Lipotin did not think it was genuine. That was his affair! But immediately I felt ashamed of my instinctive collector's reaction when dealing with someone as poor as Lipotin. He was watching me closely. Had he noticed that I felt ashamed? Strange--something akin to disappointment flitted across his face. I had an uncanny feeling in the pit of my stomach. I finished my sentence on a note of defiance: 'The frame is, in my opinion, good.'
'Good? Certainly! But a copy. Made in St. Petersburg. I sold the original years ago to
Prince Yussupoff.'
   Hesitatingly I turned the mirror this way and that in the light of the lamp. I am well acquainted with the quality of St. Petersburg forgeries. The Russians rival the Chinese in the art. And yet: this frame was genuine!---Then, quite by chance concealed on the underside of a voluptuously curving piece of scrollwork, I discovered the mark of the Florentine studio, half hidden by the old varnish. The collector in me rebelled against the idea of revealing my discovery to Lipotin. Honour would be satisfied if I stuck by my original judgment. So, honestly and openly I said, 'The frame is too good, even for the best of copies. In my opinion it's genuine."
   Lipotin gave an irritated shrug of the shoulders: 'If this one here is the original then Prince Yussupoff must have been given the copy. -- Anyway, it doesn't matter, the price I received was for the original; and the Prince, his house and his collections have been swept away from the face of the earth. Any further argument is pointless; to each his own.'
   'And the old mirror, obviously English?' I asked.
'Is, if you insist, genuine. It is the mirror that was originally in the frame. Yussupoff had a new Venetian glass put in the frame as he was buying the mirror for his own use. He was superstitious. He said too many people had already looked into the mirror; that kind of thing could bring bad luck.'
   'And so...?'
'And so you can keep it, sir, if it has taken your fancy. It's not worth talking about a price.'
'But if the frame is genuine after all?'
'It has been paid for. Genuine or fake - let me make you a present of this memento from my native land.'
   I know Russian obstinacy. It was as he said: genuine or fake, I had to accept the present. Otherwise he would have been offended. Better to let it stick at 'fake' so that he wouldn't get annoyed at his mistake later on, if he should realise he had made a mistake. And that's how I came by a little masterpiece of an early baroque frame. I silently decided to find a way of compensating him for his generosity by giving him a good price for some other piece. But nothing else that he showed me was of any interest. That, I'm afraid, is the way things usually are: the opportunity of turning a good intention into action is much rarer than that of satisfying a selfish urge. So it was somewhat shamefacedly that I left, half an hour later, with Lipotin's gift under my arm, without leaving behind anything more than a promise to make up for it with several purchases on my next visit.

    It was around eight o'clock that I arrived home and found nothing on my desk, apart from a note from my housekeeper saying that her replacement had come about six and asked if it was all right not to start until eight o'clock as there were some arrangements she still had to make. My housekeeper had then left at seven, so I had made good use of the brief interregnum with my visit to Lipotin. I could look forward to the arrival of my new chatelaine in a few minutes, always assuming Frau Fromm kept her word. In something of a bad mood, because my old friend Gartner had not kept to his promise, I decided to cheer myself up by unpacking Lipotin's present, which I still had under my arm. 
     The harsh electric light could not disguise its perfection.
Even the deep green glass with its opalescent spots seemed to have an antique charm; it glowed in the frame, more like a beautifully polished, smoky moss-agate in places, like a gigantic emerald, than the murky glass of an old mirror. Strangely fascinated by the chance beauty of an ancient mirror-glass with its oxidised silver backing, I propped the thing up before me and immersed myself in its unfathomable depths, shot with mysterious iridescent reflections. How did the change come over me? I began to feel as if I were no longer standing in my study, but was at the station in the middle of the throng of arriving passengers and people waiting at the barrier. And wasn't that Dr. Gartner waving his hat at me from the crowd....")

('Well, you are right, my friend. Professor Gartner from Chile is somewhere in the ocean...' here he made a vague, expansive gesture which, however, seemed to make sense to me. 'He was drowned quite a while ago.'
   My heart seemed to stop for a moment: so it was true, I thought, and I must have looked quite dumbfounded, for my friend suddenly laughed out loud and shook his head in apparent amusement: 'You needn't worry, my friend. I think you don't usually find ghosts enjoying a cigar and a glass of tea - an exceedingly good tea, by the way. But...' his face and voice assumed their previous serious expression, 'it is true that your friend Gartner... is dead.'
   'Then who are you?' I asked in a quiet voice)
('I said: Theodor Gartner is dead. Now, you could take that for a not unusual, though rather highfalutin expression someone might use to say of themselves that, whatever the reason, they wanted to break with their past and become a new person. Assume for the moment that, that is what I meant by it.')

('If that's the way you see it, I have no objection,' my visitor answered calmly. His piercing gaze had an indescribable power, and slowly, tortuously, the memory of a long forgotten past clawed its way back up from the depths. I could not say whether it came from last night's dream or whether it was the reawakening of an age-old chain of events that had lain dormant for a hundred years. Meanwhile Gartner continued imperturbably: 'As you are making an effort to help me explain your doubts, I can put things more simply and briefly than might otherwise be the case -- 'We are old friends!' That is correct. -- But 'Dr. Theodor Gartner,' your fellow student and companion of your trivial student pranks, has little to do with the matter. Therefore it is quite correct if we say: he is dead. You are quite correct in your assumption that I am someone else. --Who am I? Gartner.')
('My work as a gardener has taught me how to handle roses, nurturing them, improving the strain. My special art is grafting. Your friend was a healthy stock; the one you see before you is the scion. The natural blossom of the stock has vanished. The child my mother bore has long since drowned in the sea of transmutation. The stock, the rootstock onto which I was grafted, was the offspring of another mother, of the mother of a former student of chemistry, Theodor Gartner by name, the one you knew, whose unripe soul has passed through the grave.'
A shiver went down my spine. His relaxed figure was as enigmatic as his speech. My lips automatically formed the question: 'And why are you here?'
'Because it is time,' he answered, as if it were obvious. With a smile he added: 'I like to be there when I'm needed.'
'And so you're not a chemist' - I wasn't concerned with whether it followed on from what he had just said - 'anymore; nor are you...'
'I have always been one, even when your friend Theodor was turning up his nose like any ignoramus at the secrets of the royal art. I am, and have been for as long as I can remember, an al-chymist.'
   'How can that be, an alchemist?' I exclaimed, 'You, who were always...?'
'I who was always...?'
Then I remembered that the old Theodor Gartner I had known, was dead. The 'other' continued:
   'You should remember that, in every age, there have been both adepts and bunglers. You are thinking of the latter, if you are thinking of the medieval quacks and charlatans, though it is from their pseudo-art that the much-vaunted chemistry of today has developed, in which your friend Theodor took such childish pride. The quacks of the middle ages have become eminent professors of chemistry at the universities. We of the 'Golden Rose,' however, have never been interested in dissecting matter, postponing death, or succumbing to the hunger for gold, that accursed plaything of mankind. We have remained what we always have been: technicians in the laboratory of eternal life.')
(--(reading from his cousin's words off a page)-- "It came as I have long suspected it would. I expected "it" from the very beginning when I first started to look into the musty mysterious papers of our ancestor John Dee. It seems I am not the first to meet "it." I, John Roger Gladhill, the bearer of the arms, am a link in the chain my ancestor forged. I am truly linked to these accursed things now that I have touched them. The legacy is not dead! Yesterday 'she' appeared here for the first time. She is very slender, very beautiful, and her clothes give off a delicate scent you can only just smell --the scent of a beast of prey. Since then I have been in such a state of nervous excitement that I cannot get her out of my mind. Lady Sissy, she calls herself, but I can't believe that is her real name. She claims to be Scottish. She wants some mysterious weapon from me. A weapon that is supposed to have a connection with the arms of the Dees of Gladhill. I assured her that I possessed no such weapon, but she just smiled. Since then I have not had an hour's peace! I am obsessed with the urge to procure for Lady Sissy, or whatever she may be called, the weapon she so desires, cost what it may, my present or my future happiness. Oh, I think I know who Lady Sissy really is....!"   --John Roger Gladhill.

The sheet of paper slipped out of my hand and fluttered to the ground. I looked at my visitor. He shrugged his shoulders. 
'That was what sent my cousin John to his death?' I asked.
'I believe the new task the 'Lady' set was too much for him,' said the man whom I no longer dared call Theodor Gartner. A wild horde of dark thoughts rushed down upon me: Lady Sissy. Who was she?! Who else but Princess Shotokalungin! And she is...who else but Black Isais! - Bartlett Greene's Black Isais!! - The veil was suddenly rent apart.....)

"And where did I get the green mirror from? It came from Lipotin's junk shop; it was given to me as a 'memento of his native land.' From which native land? From the land of the Russian Czar, of Ivan the Terrible? A gift from the great-grandson - how many times removed? --of Mascee, the 'Tutor to the Czar!' But who was Mascee? Nothing easier than to coolly, calmly look for the answer in John Dee's notebooks: Mascee was the evil spirit behind the Ravenheads, the uprising of the mob; he it was who brought the messages and fatal gifts from the loathsome chief of the Ravenheads, from that desecrator of graves and murdering fire-raiser, Bartlett Greene, the spawn of Isais, the destroyer, the eternal tempter and arch-enemy, the redbeard in the leather jerkin, who was sitting here at my desk only yesterday! So Bartlett Greene is present, is here; the enemy of John Dee and now my enemy! And he it was -through Lipotin- who smuggled the green mirror into my possession. But I will beware of the orders that come from the mirror. The strange thing is that the first person to come out of the mirror was my friend Theodor Gartner."

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