BLTC Press Titles

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The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

The Bhagavad Gita


Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

Painted veils

by James Huneker


Ulick Invern preferred the short cut down the hill to the smoother roundabout road, which, though shaded, was dusty. It was the last week of his vacation, much needed, little desired. He was loath to leave New York, best-beloved city after Paris; but his doctor advised him to try New Hampshire to relieve his hay-fever. As he went across the fields of the Forest Hills park he was forced to admit that the fortnight in Franconia had put him on his feet. No sneezing, no insomnia, no writing, lots of reading. Such reading. He had made up his mind that no fiction, either frivolous or serious, would he fetch in his trunk; not even his adored Flaubert. Nothing but books dealing with the origins of religious beliefs, mystic books; Thomas a Kempis, Apollo, by Reinach, several Cardinal Newman volumes, the Old Testament, Browning, and as a concession to his profane leanings, a copy of Petronius in the original. Ulick was a fair latinist; his literary tastes versatile. This serene September forenoon he pondered the idea of a new religion. He had been reading in Reinach's Apollo of the mushroom swiftness with which any crazy silly superstition grows overnight in proper soil. The more ignorant the mob the easier it is to convince with some insane doctrine. Witness the growth of Mormonism or the new cult in America which already boasted a female pope and a big following.

"A new religion," he said aloud. "Well, why not? the time seems ripe. Everything is unsettled. We are on.the verge of something tremendous, a world-war, a social revolution, and yet we have never been seemingly more prosperous—I mean the entire earth. We must be entering into a new constellation; perhaps Mars is in the ascendant; or the sullen house of Saturn. . ." Ulick wasn't a star-worshipper, he liked to flirt with astrology as he flirted with a belief in the Fourth Dimension of Space. He was a well set-up young man still in the twenties, vigourous mentally and physically, nervous rather than muscular, yet capable of great powers of resistance. His friends, and he had many, said he was too volatile to compass distinction; he couldn't stick at anything over a month. This mania for the study of comparative religions was not new—he had only revived an old interest. Christianity with its stems deep in Judaism, Asiatic legends, Alexandrian mysticism; with its taboos, fetishes, totems, animism and magic, its lofty belief in the idealism of Jesus and its mumbo-jumbo conjurations and incredibly absurd miracles— this welter of old-world faiths and debasing superstition, a polytheistic Judaism, held his fancy, for, as a former student of theology, he saw more clearly the polyphonic criss-crossing of ideas and ceremonies than the majority of critics. A palimpsest, rather, many palimpsests, was this religion, which in less than two thousand years has undergone more radical changes than any that preceded it. A chameleon among religions, compared with which Buddhism is a rock of eternal certitude. But sentimentality always ends by wrecking a religion, or a nation, and Christianity is first sentimental, the romantic as opposed to the classic faiths of the Greeks and Romans.

He debouched into the road leading to Zaneburg, after a plunge down the hill. Shade-trees bordered the avenue upon which stood pretty bungalows. There were an unusual number of people walking and riding; perhaps because of Saturday, or, and he suddenly remembered, because the Hillcrest Hotel was to be sold at public auction that very noon, with all its contents. Country folk are keen on buying something for nothing. Invern flicked golden-rod, abhorred of hay-fever sufferers, and decided to go with the crowd. But first I'll stop at Zaneburg and get a drink of cider. Nothing stronger in the state; indeed, nothing could be stronger than New Hampshire cider. He was thirsty, which pleasant condition he laughingly set down to his constellation; he had been born under the sign of Aquarius the Water-Carrier.

He entered the village and made for the Inn which bore the resounding title: At the Sign of the Golden Buck. He had hardly reached the post-office, also the general store, when noisy, discordant music struck his unwilling ears. A critic of music, once upon a time, he suffered from his sensitive hearing. He averred it was the false intonation of singers, whether in opera or concert that had driven him from professional criticism into the theatre; from the frying-pan into the fire, he lamented. So the horrible conglomeration of noises which assailed his tympani set him to wondering—and cursing. There were the banging of big drums, tambourine thumping, tooting of fifes coupled with hideous howling without tune or rhythm; just the howling of idiots penned-up behind bars, or the screeching of hyenas on a desert plain beneath the rays of a sultry midnight moon. He looked around for a path to escape, and then decided to see the show—probably some circus. A crowd had quickly formed. Borne along he soon saw an irregular procession chiefly composed of women dancing, screaming, beating tambourines. Hysteria was in the air. Two figures, detached from the others, focussed his attention. A gigantic noseless negro wearing a scarlet turban and dressed in a gaudy gown like a woman's wrapper, headed the throng. His big eyes rolled, and at intervals he emitted a roar as he struck an exotic gong with a hammer.

"De Holy Yowlers is here!" he boomed in a formidable basso. "Welcome de Holy Yowlers. Services at de rotunda in ten minutes. Entrance free. Come one, come all. Welcome all. Hear de Holy Yowlers." A young woman walking behind this giant and carrying a banner shrieked: "Holy Yowlers. Save your dirty souls. Dance into paradise. Holy Yowlers." Her pretty eyes were bloodshot. She staggered under the grievous burden. Her face was bloated with enthusiasm as she cursed the evil of rum-drinking. The Holy Yowlers was a prohibition organization, evidently, as the woman's words and behaviour indicated. Ulick examined her with curiosity. Here's the beginning of my new religion, he cogitated. Lots of noise, a few incomprehensible phrases, plenty of rum—and it's enough to start anything from a political party to the second advent of some sheep-god. I forgot to add fornication. The twin pillars of all religions have been, still are and ever shall be, superstition and fornication; faith in the imbecile doctrines" and fornication—else the membership would dwindle. His reverie was interrupted by a voice that whispered: "It's Roarin' Nell, sartain. She's on one of her regular sprees. Nuthin' stops her. Just look at that big nigger, how he handles her. He ought to get his derned ugly head punched. Nell used to be pretty. Too much rum and religion got the best of her." It was a farmhand who spoke. Click asked him questions. Nell joined them. She planted her banner—blazoned with the device of a cross and crescent on a red ground— the initials H. Y.—before him, and casually remarked:

"It's as hot as the hinges of hell. Buy a drink for me mister."

"Surely," he answered. "I'm going to the Inn. Come along." She held back. "They wunt be selling me any drink. I'm forbidden." "How forbidden?" "Well, see here. It's this way. When I drink I don't know when to stop—" "Yes stick to cider—" She burst into hysterical laughter. "Cider? That's the worst ever. It's a temperance drink, too. Them teetotallers just dote on cider." The procession had been halted. The coloured person had temporarily lost his zeal. Burning sunrays concentrated on his woolly skull. He vaguely passed thick fingers across his blubber lips. His eyes were soft and appealing as he gazed at Ulick. Roarin' Nell made significant motions. She threw back her head, whose shapeliness was concealed by a sunbonnet and placed a finger on her mouth. The thirst was in her and had insidiously attacked the citadel of the invading host. Brother Rainbow couldn't get any further. "Go back to de rotunda!" he bellowed to the faithful disciples, and as he once more struck the metallic gong he added: "In ten minutes, beloved brethren, de Holy Yowlers will attack de rum-devil and put him to flight." "Come along," impatiently cried Ulick, "I'm dying with thirst." "Go behind the barn, we can get what we want," cautioned Nell.

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