RITE OF THE REVOLUTION

CHAPTER XXX FRANKLIN The fog hung low though it was late in the morning. Benjamin had spent the night at an inn in Lyon. He awoke early and set out for L’Arbes, for the Temple, before daybreak. Both Madame Helvetius and Wilkes had suggested he attend this fair of occult curiosities. It seemed that many of the Continental lodges were as much for harboring ridiculous esoteric pursuits as they were for good old-fashioned freemasonry. And this fair, from what he’d heard, would be rife with examples of that. He packed his trusty armonica along and hoped to attract the legendary Spartacus with its sweet sounds. The armonica was something he’d invented himself. It was a blown glass, beehiveshaped instrument that lay on a spindle on its side. He had attached a foot treadle to it so that it could be turned at various speeds, and while in motion, he would wet his fingers and run them over the harmonically tuned parts of the thing, and it would emit a sound like no other. It always made for quite a conversation piece. Now if Spartacus were to be found anywhere, he would be at the Grand Temple Fair. His letters to Adams had been inspirational to the colonists’ cause and Spartacus by reputation was a nexus of Europe’s highest order of social strata. He knew kings, princes, dukes, lords, counts, all the moneyed. If Franklin could get the audience of this Spartacus person, perhaps his worries about money would be over. It was said that Spartacus was an alchemist, a vocation of which Benjamin thought very little, unless he really did have the Philosopher’s Stone, then that might be another matter. But it was highly doubtful that such a thing existed. Spartacus was a cabalist, a practice Franklin had little knowledge of, an astrologer, and a magician. None of these titles impressed Franklin overmuch in themselves, but he was willing to give him a try if he had money. Benjamin, though a stout naturalist, knew that any system employed could be made to bear fruit if done with devotion and precision, except perhaps for alchemy. And if Spartacus did have the philosopher’s stone, then funding the war in America would be no problem for him. Since arriving in Passy, Benjamin had been reading the Illuminati Perfectibilis circular letters that Dr. Bancroft had cleverly gathered. The group seemed so full of itself, hinting at having secret knowledge, secret power, secret weapons, but not enough information was given about the nature of these secrets that Franklin wondered if he didn’t already know the information himself. The mysteries, they swore would one day be revealed to those who deserved to know. Today, Benjamin would have the opportunity to meet the authors of these circulars and see just what, if anything, they did know. Benjamin’s carriage was stopped at the iron gate by three uniformed men who looked like Huns. Hair grew long out of the tops of their collars and it seemed that every black pore on their faces – though shaven - was one that bore a hair. Their hands were covered by gloves and their posture was markedly stooped. Benjamin wondered about their nationality as they inspected his carriage and invitation, and spoke in a language he had never heard before. “Dr. Franklin,” one of them said in an Eastern European accent and smiled. The others opened the gate and waved him through.

RITE OF THE REVOLUTION

His carriage pulled up outside the Grand Temple D’Orient to a carnival of oddities that sprawled over the spacious lawn. There were machines and moving contraptions the likes of which Benjamin had never seen before, characters in costumes, one portraying Jesus, sages, prophets, fortune-tellers, Druids, swamis, wise men, dervishes, and outcasts from all corners of the earth. They had all gathered here for this festival. A dwarf dressed as a medieval court jester juggled three eggs and greeted him as he stepped out of his carriage. “Welcome to the Grand Temple,” he said in his odd little voice. “Thankf.” Benjamin unloaded his armonica. He had made a wheeled case for it and rolled it over the grass. “Where are the hoftf?” “Over there,” the dwarf pointed, and missed an egg. Benjamin spied two distinguished-looking men standing on the steps of the temple surveying the odd array of occultists. He approached them, bemused. “Hello, I’m Dr. Benjamin Franklin,” he bowed with a flourish. “We are the brothers Habsburg. I am Johann and this is my brother Byron.” “You certainly know how to throw a fete. What interefting friendf you have.” They shared a chuckle. “You have brought your beguiling musical instrument, what is it?” asked Byron. “My armonica. You will be entranced by itf ethereal foundf.” “Come. I will take you to a prime spot for your display, right between the Wolfman and the time machine,” he said, tongue in cheek. “Lovely. Might I have a chair and a pot of water?” asked Benjamin upon arriving at the prime ten by ten spot of grass. He set up his armonica stand, then placed the keg-sized glass instrument in it. A big servant brought him a chair and the water pot and soon he was perturbing everyone in earshot. The Wolfman howled, lunging at the chains that held him to his master’s wagon. On his other side, the regal, Italian-looking man with the time machine stepped up to him, a slight smile. “I’ve never heard anything quite like that,” he said. “Yef, it’f called an armonica. I made it myfelf.” Benjamin stopped playing and stood to introduce himself. “Dr. Benjamin Franklin.” “I am the Great Cagliostro. Your instrument is fascinating. Evocative of the strains of the universe in travail.” “Yef.” Benjamin was aware of the insult, but did not take offense, not from someone professing to transport people through time. By noon, the Temple grounds were overflowing with freemasons of all nationalities and ranks, and it dawned on Benjamin just how many knights and chevaliers there were, for this surely was only a small percentage of them. He kept an antenna out for Spartacus, and when he heard Deutsch being spoken, he inquired if the speaker was acquainted with Spartacus. All held Spartacus in high regard, all desired an introduction, but none to whom Benjamin spoke had ever met him in person. He was aware of the Italian with the time machine eyeballing him for most of the afternoon. When high tea was being served and the crowd of tourists seemed to thin, the Italian looked over at Benjamin. “Are you looking for Doctor Weishaupt?” “No, I’m looking for fpartacuf,” replied Benjamin. “They are one in the same person,” smiled Cagliostro. “He has gone away in my time machine. Wouldn’t you like to follow? Take your instrument with you.”

RITE OF THE REVOLUTION

“Pray let us send that armonica back in time. A gift to Herod the King.” The Jesus lookalike suggested. Everyone in earshot laughed heartily. Benjamin stopped playing and felt himself get flustered. “ Pleafe. It wouldn’t be going anywhere but into some hatch-trap hole in the ground! Everyone knows there’f no fuch thing af a time machine!” The Italian’s face flushed scarlet and he raised his voice louder than Benjamin’s. “Are you calling me a charlatan, sir?” “I moft certainly am. Your aim, like many otherf here i f to trick people and pray upon their gullibility. Freemafonry if not and haf never been an avenue for the occult. Thif feftival if a mockery of the ritef and folemn oathf to which moft good freemafonf fubfcribe!” Benjamin did not trust the Italian, and continued to play his armonica, the sound of which had already put the Wolfman into slathering convulsions beneath his wagon. Benjamin knew his instrument had devastating effects on women and sensitive persons and smiled absently when passersby would seize up, kneel and wretch, or run screaming away. For a while, a herd of lunatics tied together with rope, from another display gathered close and stared with their frighteningly black eyes until Benjamin resigned playing and went to tour the rest of the psychic anomalies, most of which he found to be shams. There was a veritable-looking cyclops, a sunken-eyed pregnant woman in a bed, and the Ark of the Covenant – an obvious fake with paste jewels and copper tinged paint, guarded by Spaniards dressed as Egyptians. There were more freaks: A soothsayer, some rather provocative witches lustfully brewing something odiferous in a cauldron, a Chinese levitator; “Eric the Unfrozen Viking;” a falconer, and an Indian snake charmer. Any one of these could have made for an afternoon of fascination. Benjamin had to admit there were some remarkable pieces of art and craftsmanship, but the fair itself was a debacle in light of the solemn traditions of freemasonry. He came to a very complicated and dangerous-looking electrical experiment. He walked closer; on a music stand was a copy of one of his papers - and a sign that said - Based on the scientific works of M. Benjamin Franklin He stopped briefly, and lowered his spectacles. Just then the lunatics returned to this display and took their places, all in a row. Benjamin watched as the scientist in charge of them linked them together with wires, then generated a current with a foot treadle and ran an electric shock through them, making them pop to attention and their hair stand on end. Benjamin was at first horrified, then gratified, and applauded the experiment. “Your celebrity outpaces you,” said Johann Habsburg who suddenly appeared at his side. “Yef. Quite,” answered Benjamin. “Do you know fpartacuf, er Dr. Weifhaupt?” he asked Johann. “Yes, he’s been a houseguest of mine for the last week or so. My wife is quite a fan of his,” he said sardonically. “I muft find him. If he here?” he asked. “I’d like to find him, myself,” Johann said. “He and his associate Monsieur Knigge arrived early and have spent the last week with us. He was here this morning. I know exactly where he slept.” He said it tongue in cheek, Franklin was not sure why.

RITE OF THE REVOLUTION

“Is there something we can help you with? Would you care to meet Monsieur Knigge?” asked Byron. “Knigge?” “Philo. His good associate.” “Oh, yef. Yef. I muft fpeak with him.” The Barons Habsburg led Benjamin around the back of the Temple and inside through a back door that stood ajar. Lilacs crowned the opening and it was dark inside. Out of the darkness shone a golden button, then several more coalescing into the shape of a tall man, Adolphus Knigge in a powdered wig and the finest violet blue jacket and knickers. He was speaking in a whisper with a shorter, more nervous gent. The buttons on their clothes seemed to have an uncanny sparkle, and Benjamin was introduced to Knigge and Zwack in what seemed like complete darkness. “Hello,” said Benjamin. “Are there no candlef in thif temple?” “What a brilliant idea!” exclaimed Knigge and he fumbled around in the dark for a long time. “Why are you ftanding here in the dark?” “Having a meeting,” answered the short blond man who seemed angry. “I’m forry to difturb you. I’m looking for fpartacuf. Do you know hif whereaboutf?” “I’m after him myself,” said Zwack, shaking Benjamin’s hand in the grip of the freemason. “Xavier Zwack of Ingolstadt. Munchen, Lodge Theodore. Cato is my nom de plume.” “Ah, Cato, yef,” said Benjamin recalling a few incomprehensible poems of his about abdication of private property in the Illuminati circulars. Benjamin’s Deutsch was poor and gleaned from the Quakers he’d chanced to meet as a boy. “Let there be light!” Knigge held a white taper in his hand. Both were captured by the candle’s flame and made small childish noises of delight. Benjamin observed the wax rolling over Knigge’s bare hand as he stared intently at the flame. He had yet to meet anyone from Bavaria who wasn’t sort of odd. “I’m looking for fpartacuf, er Doctor Weifhaupt. I defperately need hif help.” “What do you want with him?” snapped Zwack, his eyes shining. “My countrymen have chofen to rebel againft the Britifh crown, I’m fure you’ve heard. Gunf and ammunition and food for the army coft money, lotf of it, and that’f what I’m after, to be precife.” “Yes, we’ve been reading the circulars from the Sons of Liberty since before the Tea Party, haven’t we?” answered Knigge. Benjamin was taken aback. “You have? furely you jeft!” To think that Adams’ crazed literary diatribes had been so far-reaching. “Yes, we’ve found them quite inspirational, haven’t we, Cato?” Knigge said to Zwack. “I’d say they were the model for much of our modern political thinking.” “Oh, dear,” said Benjamin. “You have no idea where fpartacuf haf got to?” “None.” Zwack gritted his teeth. “Why don’t you join us for some refreshments, Herr Franklin?” Knigge dripped wax on the top of a chair and mashed the bottom of the candle into it, making it stick upright. Franklin thought it strange that Temple furniture be so abused. “I don’t mind if I do have a little fomething to wet my whiftle.”

RITE OF THE REVOLUTION

Knigge picked up a tankard from a tray and handed it to him. “It’s called Las Drop San. It’s the Eastern answer to kykeon. I think it’s much more adventurous, but a bit less interesting visually, don’t you, Zwack?” “I think it’s far superior to the kykeon,” said Zwack. “It’f tea, or ale?” “Oh no no no. Better than that.” Zwack’s laugh was high-pitched. “Oh dear. What if it?” asked Benjamin skeptically. “It’s a recreational drink. Got it from the swami.” Knigge let out a batty titter. Benjamin did not want to decline the drink, but was skeptical. “What will it do to me?” He took a cautious sip. “It will set you free, brother!” Benjamin took a drink, and then another. It didn’t taste too bad and it had been weeks since he’d had a good drunk on. But this was not what he expected… The sun was low on the horizon, and the clouds were turning colors. Benjamin was smitten by the surreal beauty of the sky, how it seemed to roll and pulsate. The ground leapt up and met his feet with every step and he felt jubilantly off-balance as he traipsed by the aberrations of nature on display. They were all Nature’s children, harmless creatures of light, as was he. He felt a warm soft love pouring into and out of his heart as if he was very young again. He linked arms with Knigge and Zwack and they went skipping through the fair. Benjamin soon realized he was rambling about his worries, his philosophies. He gave a speech about how he had been jailed by the English Parliament, how he had been rescued by a strange group of women, how nobility was tedious and unfair, how it limited the man in so many ways; and how all men were created equal in the eye of God. “If we win thif war, you fhall come to Pennfylvania, you and all thefe odd unfortunate perfonf on difplay here and you will all have the fame rightf and privilegef af the richeft of Englifh nobility. We will all feaft at the banquet of life and liberty! Come to America!” He shouted at the Cyclops. “America is the place for ftrange buxom ladief fuch as yourfelvef!” he invited the witches, too. “You won’t be burned at the ftake, I promife,” and he laughed like a hyena at his own joke. When all had been invited to migrate to the New World to inherit their privileges and large tracts of fertile land, Zwack and Knigge halted him at a table beneath a tree where a small olive-skinned gentleman sat eating a plate of biscuits. The golden ring on his finger sparkled magically and Benjamin found himself entranced by it immediately. It was a golden snake with ruby eyes, biting its own tale. “That’s fafcinating. Utterly,” he said. “Mayer. This is Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Dr. Franklin, this is Mayer Rothschild.” Benjamin picked up Rothschild’s hand and kissed it. “A pleafure, Mademoifelle.” Rothschild laughed heartily. “Do have a seat, Dr. Franklin. You are a person of interest, do you know this?” “Oh yef, I’m quite an interefting perfon.” Benjamin helped himself to the biscuits, but they tasted like sand, “Pardon me,” he said, and spat them out on the ground. “Come with me. Let’s take a walk.” Rothschild got up and beckoned Benjamin into the forest that surrounded the Temple grounds on all sides. “So that we can talk more privately.” “Bif fpater,” he said to Zwack and Knigge, and stumbled after Rothschild.

RITE OF THE REVOLUTION

Rothschild beckoned him deeper and deeper into the darkening forest. “Come…” “Where are we going?” asked Benjamin lumbering after him. “To my little house in the woods,” said Rothschild. The further they ventured into the forest, the smaller Rothschild seemed to look. “Come…” he turned and beckoned again. Benjamin looked down and caught sight of his own feet and they looked tiny. Suddenly the trees were as big around as barns and loomed overhead occluding almost all of the blue sky. The forest had grown immensely or else the two of them had shrunk. Benjamin stopped to marvel at the grand scale and magnificent detail of the moss and symmetrical patterns of the grass and the blossoms that were now at his eye level on the forest floor. The leaves beneath his feet were as big as carpets and he tripped over a branch and fell down. He got to his feet and realized what he had stumbled over was not vegetation at all, but a large blue jay feather, longer than a horse, it seemed. He tried in vain to pick it up and move it out of his way, but ended up going around it. Suddenly he became aware that Rothschild was nowhere in sight. He turned all the way around. “Hello? Wait! Where did you go?” he called into the forest. Before he could move, a giant iridescent blue beetle ran under him, and seating him on its back, carried him over the enormous leaves and sticks that littered the humus earth of the forest floor. “Oh dear, a bug ride,” he heard himself say as he held on tight to the sides of its chelatinous head plate. Although he was afraid, he felt more exhilarated than ever he had in his entire life and suddenly realized that the parameters by which he defined himself and the world were quite false. That he could be borne on the back of a beetle and that he had such an uncharacteristic lightness - something he had not felt in so many years - made him wonder about what limitations on his mind, body and soul he had erroneously and needlessly incorporated into his being. Shortly, a mushroom-canopied avenue availed itself. Beneath the swollen white gills that whispered spore secrets down into his ears, the beetle carried him toward the base of a giant tree whose roots trailed out in all directions like gnarled fingers. On one of these was Rothschild’s serpentine ring. Benjamin took it as a sign that he was in the right place. The beetle bowed before a knothole in the tree, clicked its mandibles and Benjamin dismounted. Inside the knothole was a tiny red door with white spots. He straightened his clothes and smoothed down his hair, and knocked at the tiny door. He could hear music and the sounds of gaiety within. A tiny pixie dressed in a shimmering blossom opened the door. “Welcome, Dr. Franklin, to our abode of riches,” she said in a musical voice. Benjamin stepped inside and was warmed by the glow of gold and jewels that covered every surface. Dancing in the piles of treasure were dozens of happy little pixies who all bore an uncanny resemblance to Rothschild. They flew above, dove below, and frolicked in the loot. Frivolous music was fiddled out by a band of merry little men. Upon his gilded throne overlooking the glittering scene was Rothschild, caped in a chipmunk pelt and wearing a golden crown as tall he. “Dr. Franklin! I thought I’d lost you! Come and sit beside me.” Benjamin waded through the sea of doubloons and precious gems and took the velvet cushion next to Rothschild.

RITE OF THE REVOLUTION

“So what were we talking about? Oh yes, funding for your revolution…” smiled Rothschild. “Yef, do you know where I might find fome financing? The French crown has refufed to fee me,” he asked, tilting his head toward the treasure pile. “If I can dig up the resources that you require to win this… island, tell me who will be its king? Yourself?” Rothschild rolled a golden egg from hand to hand, then spun it in his palm. “There will be no king. My people do not like kingf. Thif King George haf left a bad tafte in the mouthf of all.” “Why? Did they eat him?” Rothschild laughed infectiously. Benjamin was caught by the absurdity of it all and began quaking with laughter, too. The pixies began giggling and soon the whole golden inside of the tree was jangling with mirth. When their laughter had subsided, Rothschild poured him a cup of tea from a golden teapot and looked at him seriously. “Give to me the sole right to mint this nation’s money, and you shall have your liberty on a golden platter.” “Hmm…” Benjamin heard himself considering the deal inside his vacuous head, sensing no small amount of greed from his host, but remembering the vast amount of capital which he was in need of, and wondering whether it was he who was the greedy one, for he could not keep his eyes off the sparkling treasure. He wondered then if his inner dialog was spoken aloud. “Hmmm….” He made the sound just to make sure that his vocal chords were under control as he considered the arrangement. He wondered if the coins that Rothschild intended to issue would be as tiny as the two of them were and doubted they would be manageable for normal-sized people. “Af long af the money you mint if big…” he heard himself wager. Rothschild smiled and placed the golden egg in Benjamin’s hand. “Keep this as proof of our bargain.” Benjamin took the golden egg. He felt tired and relieved as he enfolded it in both hands like a golden prayer that had been answered. CHAPTER XXXI WEISHAUPT He opened the transparent door and smelled the damp forest. He stepped out into a soggy field at the edge of some verdant woods. He looked back and could no longer see Anna’s plane, for it had vanished. He heard the sounds of distant gunfire and knew that he had indeed arrived near the front lines of the American war. He walked swiftly in one direction and hoped it was the way to his brother. He stole around the camp in the dark. He feared that he might be mistaken for a spy. He found the largest of the tents and peered inside. George lay on his bed, pale, his breath labored and shallow…

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful