Relating to the events of February and March 1838
“Before returning the kidnapped victims to their homes, Masveh put each one in a trance and reshaped their memories, to undo as far as possible the damage caused by Wilshire and his dwarves. We regrouped at Ashworth’s house. That night, the master rewarded his army with a banquet.
“On the outside it seemed to be another celebration of success, another mission accomplie for the Comte de Saint Germain. Yet, I could tell Santiago’s spirit was not engaged in the festivity. Throughout the dinner, his eyes kept coming back to Ashworth’s servant boy. In the morning he gave each man an ample reward, and issued his army the command to disband and return to their lives. But then he asked Lady Masveh to follow each one and ensure they would remember nothing of what had transpired.
“The next day we returned to the Hallowstone estate. Elias finally broke the long silence of that trip. ‘We prevailed.’ There was an insistence in his tone.
“The master’s answer was immediate. ‘At what cost, Elias? Ashworth, the Alsops, perhaps even the Scales were targeted because of us… a boy nearly killed or worse because of me! This private little war of mine – I am not sure I care to incur the cost.’
“Once at the mansion, his spirits seemed to have lifted. And the next morning he walked the full length of his property inspecting everything, taking in the beauty of the land, while I made sure everything in the house was in order. I breathed a little easier when, on his return, he commented to me that later in the week he would like to go visit the mine at Parys Mountain and see the latest improvements on the operation.
“His desire to return and see those people of his adopted land, reinforced my opinion that he was not going to abandon what, at that time, I thought was his inherited mission. That afternoon, he instructed that the banquet for his guests be echoed at an appropriate scale and place for all the staff. I remember one of them remarking that, after all, Christmas had not been forgotten that year.
“After dinner we gathered in the piano room. The master conferred at length with Elias. He handed him a libretto full of his notes and said, ‘this man will be of help to you. You cannot continue working alone. The world is becoming increasingly complex. The railroad and the telegraph are erasing the meaning of borders. People, merchandise, money can move across Europe and Asia faster than ever before. If I am right and one of the heads of the Hydra has been financing the latest attacks on the Jews, you will need a man like him.
“Elias scanned through the pages. ‘Benjamin D’Israeli,’ he nodded, ‘rather young to receive such an unqualified recommendation from you.’
“The master smiled. ‘Do not let the fact that he was baptized an Anglican disturb you. He holds his Jewish heritage in high regard. But more importantly, read his Vindication of the English Constitution. If his defense of the importance of the Magna Carta does not convince you, his attack on the Municipal Corporations Bill in the Morning Post will. That young man will go far.’
“Elias closed the libretto. ‘Will you make the introductions?’ At the master’s nod he added, ‘I will always welcome your advice, my friend. Now I hope you will welcome mine too. Without denying your findings, I will still insist that there is a purpose more sinister than the unsettling of the World’s order, behind this Hydra of yours. ‘
“Elias went on. ‘I believe we have just witnessed a signature of their methods, though until now I had not understood why. I had come to refer to them as the fear mongers. It is clear now that fear and terror are more than just political weapons; they are part of an occult arsenal. They will not give up trying to open the door.’
“‘The door to what?’
“‘I don’t think we ever want to know the answer to that question, my friend.’ Elias brought his hands together, and rested his fingers on his lips. ‘But I predict that the attacks on my people will become more vicious, more blatant within a few years.’
“‘If you need my help, Elias, you know how to find me.’
“Elias was right, Doctor. Not two years later, in Damascus, a Franciscan Capuchin friar by the name of Thomas, and his Greek servant, were reported missing, and never seen again. Even though a Turkish muleteer had been heard to threaten him, accusations of ritual murder were raised against the local Jews, as the murder occurred just before Passover. The Turkish governor and the French consul believed the accusations, and mounted an investigation. A Jewish barber confessed under torture, and implicated several others. Thirteen Jews in total were arrested. Several were tortured, some to death.
“The Austrian Consul in Aleppo spoke on their behalf and convinced Ibrahim Pasha in Egypt to order an investigation before they were all killed. The American consul in Egypt added his voice, and so did influential ministers from Britain and France. Even Danish missionary John Nicolayson led a delegation to the ruler of Syria, Mehemet Ali, seeking his aid. Negotiations in Alexandria finally secured the unconditional release and recognition of innocence of the nine surviving prisoners.
“Eventually, Montefiore persuaded Sultan Abdülmecid in Constantinople to issue an edict directed at halting these baseless accusations of blood libel. Those events encouraged the growth of a solidarity movement among the Jews of the whole world. The establishment of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, three years ago, is the latest step in this movement. Even so, Elias’ work is never done.”
After a long pause, Worthington returned to the story, deciding to dwell on a moment of lightness. “After that discussion the tenor of the conversation grew more relaxed, and it was the master that proposed we play cards. He explained to us a game that was fast becoming popular in America on the River Steamers. Elias recognized its resemblance to the Persian game of As Nas, played with a deck of twenty cards, in four courts or suits of five cards each. The object, after receiving the first two cards, is to bet on your chances of success as you receive additional cards, until all are dealt. The highest score is a hand with the same card in every suit. The next highest is a hand of all cards of the same kind.
“After a few deals, I understood my master’s fascination with the game. Winning the individual deal is not the goal, but rather, outlasting your opponents. In the long run, it is just as important to know when to yield your hand, and bet no more, as it is to know when to intimidate your opponents with a false confidence. The master’s expertise at reading people gave him a distinct advantage.
“Lady Masveh became more focused as we became more proficient. When three deals in a row ended in a bidding challenge between her and the master, won by her, Santiago got a new deck of cards and let Elias deal the next hand. Again Elias and I decided our hands held no prospects and we lay them down, yielding. Masveh added a pile of coins to her final bet as did the master. He turned over his cards to show three Lions, or Aces as the Portuguese call them. Masveh turned over four Queens. As she reached for the pile of coins, he stopped her hand, and started turning over our discarded cards. Between Elias and I, we had two Queens.
“They stared at each other in silence. Masveh’s eyes were all innocence. And then she raised one of her Queens up from the table. The image suddenly winked at Santiago and blew him a kiss before becoming a huntsman. Lord Hallowstone broke into a boisterous laughter that quickly took over all of us; and the game was ended.
“We adjourned to the raised landing of the mansion. It was a mild night; every star in the sky was shining for us. We noticed again Lady Masveh’s reaction at that great expanse above. The master walked up to her. Without turning to him she said, ‘All this you can see! You were right, we have forgotten much.’ Then she faced him, and with an almost human humility went on. ‘I assumed Wilshire was the Ikal’s puppet. My ignorance could have cost us much. I will try to understand.’ She glanced away as if staring into another world, and then she said, ‘But you, your people were charged with observing the signs in the sky, were they not?’
“None of us understood the context of her comment. She turned her eyes to the full moon, and the master took that opportunity to ask, ‘How did Diderici build his lair on the moon?’
“‘The question is not how he built it, but who rebuilt it?’
“They looked into each other’s eyes for what seemed almost a minute, and then the master hurried back into the house. We followed him to the Library. The previous night he had spread Lady Masveh’s drawings on the long table, and pinned them down at the corners with his pamphlets. He walked from one to the other, and a look of realization crossed his face.
“He picked up one of his pamphlets and read. The text was in French. ‘August 15, 1809. It is confirmed. Two years of careful observation by the premiere astronomers of the world have proven that Venus no longer has a moon. Yet as recently as 1791 Montaigne observed it. Since Cassini made his discovery public in 1686 its existence has been confirmed by Short, Mayer, and the great Lagrange himself. What are we to make of their witness?’
“He turned the page and read the conclusion to that passage: ‘What kind of cataclysm can erase a celestial body without leaving a trace or repercussion in the rest of the Solar System? Without anybody noticing?’ I was standing next to him by that time, and saw on the drawings what he had just noticed, that in several of them the arrangement of the planets was such that Venus was in closest proximity to the Earth. On others it was Mercury that was drawing near. And Masveh had drawn straight lines connecting the positions of the planets, just as the inner planet had crossed the limb of the Sun.
“He closed that pamphlet and drew another one out of an envelope. It was much smaller. Its binding was protected by an embroidered cloth cover, with a needlework garden adorning the front, and a large rose centered on the back. He opened it gently. Under his breath he read the dedication on the first page, a poem in five lines, full of childish delight and gratitude, from a girl to her parents on the gift of a telescope. Ten pages in, he read the date, September 17, 1798. ‘For the third day in a row I have seen lights in the crater Aristarchus. Monsieur Rumovskii might be able to confirm. He said he would be studying the moon again this month.’
“Santiago looked up. ‘The Russian astronomer confirmed it.’ Turning the pamphlet towards us he motioned at the letter tucked in between the pages. There was a faint smile of irony in the master’s face, as he commented that the man never suspected that his learned French colleague and correspondent was a girl barely 15. His eyes turned to the pages one last time before he closed it, and put it away as carefully as he had brought it out.
“‘Now in my own hand…’ He unfolded a torn piece of newspaper that was held between two pages of another pamphlet. ‘1821,’ he said. The headline read: Lights seen on the Moon’s Crater Aristarchus. An unsteady hand had scribbled on the margin the word ‘Why?’ in Spanish. Another newspaper article, from 1825, this one neatly cut, bore a similar headline. The writing across the upper margin said, ‘What did Marguerite know?’
“He set that pamphlet down too and addressed us. ‘After my encounter with the Salamander, I remembered Marguerite’s fascination with such things. I had sent her my observations of the meteor of 1803 in London, and of the globe of fire seen in Funen and Jutland in 1807; but I had never studied her notes in detail. I couldn’t –’
“He didn’t finish that sentence. Instead he stepped around the table again and examined one of the drawings. ‘The particular lights she noted in 1798 appeared after the closest approach of Venus to Earth, according to your drawings, coincident with the closest approach of Mercury… Why?’
“Lady Masveh formed her words carefully. ‘Artillery bombardment, I surmise.’ At the master’s stare, she went on. ‘Perhaps part of the same campaign that obliterated the satellite of Venus.’ She turned her face away and walked toward the wall of windows. ‘They must have assumed they destroyed whatever was on the Moon, in 1798.’
“‘They fought from heaven;’ Elias spoke up with the quote from the Book of Judges, ‘the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.’ He was as startled by the revelation as the rest of us.
“‘The Salamanders? But –?’ The master did not have to finish his question.
“Masveh faced him again, her face solemn. ‘Yes. But obviously they were mistaken. Somehow it was rebuilt. Diderici used it. They must have realized it, and attacked again in 1821 and 1825.’
“‘Yet Wilshire tried to use it two days ago.’ Elias now understood Masveh’s frustration.
“‘But the Sunspot count is near a hundred,’ I objected. ‘I heard you say it must be much lower to make such a traverse. Why did he try?’
“Lady Masveh looked at Elias and then at me. ‘There is more than one way to open a door. Look at the night sky; go as far north as you wish, you will not see the Aurora.’
“‘Surely the Sun is still storming…’ Elias started.
“‘But the winds are being blocked by something between us and the moon.’ Masveh finished.”
“’That was the purpose of the spell,’ Elias said as he understood.”
Worthington stood up again. “It is true, Doctor. If any would doubt the reality and power of the sorcery Wilshire had almost unleashed on our planet, it suffices to check the recorded observations of the Aurora. The sunspot count from 1837 through 1839 did not change much, but the number of observations of the Northern Lights was dramatically reduced in 1838. The reduction appears to have lasted through the whole year.
“When the master spoke again, I could see pain in his eyes as he voiced the conclusion: ‘In 1815 Diderici did not have a Sun Storm to contend with.’
“‘No,’ Masveh agreed, ‘the Sun was quiet then.’
“‘If he was using the moon, then there was no limit to how far on Earth he could transport himself…’ The master walked away from the table. ‘…as long as the moon hung on the same sky.’
“Masveh nodded in assent, her eyes following him.
“He went on: ‘I assumed he had a limit.’
“‘He did have a limit,’ she said softly. ‘He could only go as far as he could see.’
“‘As far as he could see with his eyes –’ The master’s voice almost broke as he said that, and he could only finish in a whisper ‘ – or with another’s eyes.’
“Masveh knew what he had just realized, that the monster he had thought slain by lightning, most likely had escaped. She added immediately: ‘He was stopped in France.’
“‘At what price?’ The momentary flash of anguish that crossed his eyes as he said that, I have never forgotten.
“Masveh did not reply.
“He walked out. She followed him as far as the landing and then she just stood there, hood raised over her head, watching as he went down the steps and lost himself in the night.”