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The Magician He handled the delicate pages as a lover of flowers would handle rose−leaves. 'And have you much literature on the occult sciences?' asked Susie. Dr Porhoet smiled. 'I venture to think that no private library contains so complete a collection, but I dare not show it to you in the presence of our friend Arthur. He is too polite to accuse me of foolishness, but his sarcastic smile would betray him.' Susie went to the shelves to which he vaguely waved, and looked with a peculiar excitement at the mysterious array. She ran her eyes along the names. It seemed to her that she was entering upon an unknown region of romance. She felt like an adventurous princess who rode on her palfrey into a forest of great bare trees and mystic silences, where wan, unearthly shapes pressed upon her way. 'I thought once of writing a life of that fantastic and grandiloquent creature, Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Paracelsus Bombast von Hohenheim,' said Dr Porhoet, 'and I have collected many of his books.' He took down a slim volume in duodecimo, printed in the seventeenth century, with queer plates, on which were all manner of cabbalistic signs. The pages had a peculiar, musty odour. They were stained with iron−mould. 'Here is one of the most interesting works concerning the black art. It is the Grimoire of Honorius, and is the principal text−book of all those who deal in the darkest ways of the science.' Then he pointed out the Hexameron of Torquemada and the Tableau de l'Inconstance des Demons, by Delancre; he drew his finger down the leather back of Delrio's Disquisitiones Magicae and set upright the Pseudomonarchia Daemonorum of Wierus; his eyes rested for an instant on Hauber's Acta et Scripta Magica, and he blew the dust carefully off the most famous, the most infamous, of them all, Sprenger's Malleus Malefikorum. 'Here is one of my greatest treasures. It is the Clavicula Salomonis; and I have much reason to believe that it is the identical copy which belonged to the greatest adventurer of the eighteenth century, Jacques Casanova. You will see that the owner's name had been cut out, but enough remains to indicate the bottom of the letters; and these correspond exactly with the signature of Casanova which I have found at the Bibliotheque Nationale. He relates in his memoirs that a copy of this book was seized among his effects when he was arrested in Venice for traffic in the black arts; and it was there, on one of my journeys from Alexandria, that I picked it up.' He replaced the precious work, and his eye fell on a stout volume bound in vellum. 'I had almost forgotten the most wonderful, the most mysterious, of all the books that treat of occult science. You have heard of the Kabbalah, but I doubt if it is more than a name to you.' 'I know nothing about it at all,' laughed Susie, 'except that it's all very romantic and extraordinary and ridiculous.' 'This, then, is its history. Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt, was first initiated into the Kabbalah in the land of his birth; but became most proficient in it during his wanderings in the wilderness. Here he not only devoted the leisure hours of forty years to this mysterious science, but received lessons in it from an obliging angel. By aid of it he was able to solve the difficulties which arose during his management 5


The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham