Author’s note: this is a chapter in the ongoing misadventures of the hapless wizard Edwyn Le Fay. It is suggested, for maximum reading pleasure, that these other stories are read first, in this order:
The Dark House
The House On The Cliff
Mr Naith & Mr Naith
Searching For Gideon De Ville
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay At The Trismegistus Club
The story will continue in Edwyn Le Fay In Oxford
An Enforced Vacation
The wizard Edwyn Le Fay, a person who has had his share of bad luck in the past, has just returned home from researching occult maters in the British Library to discover a police inspector, Steel, sitting in the living room, waiting for him. Edwyn Le Fay hated the policeman, after Steel had used him to find the underground lair of Gideon De Ville, an evil and dangerous wizard. Le Fay had been used by the police, and that meant that he really detested this representative of the long arm of the law.
“What on earth are you doing here?” Edwyn Le Fay asked, trembling – mostly with anger at seeing Steel inside his house. But he was also partly trembling with fear. He was scared that steel had somehow heard that he was researching the dead diabolist Edward Lang – even though there was no way that steel could have been aware of that fact, as Le Fay had only just come from the British Library.
“I have come to give you a warning.” Steel said, as he stretched out in the chair, making himself fully at home.
“Oh?” Le Fay asked, still feeling very nervous. Was he about to be warned off from studying Edward Lang. But Edward Howe, the librarian, had not recognised him. And he had used a false name, as well.
“People have been asking questions, of the criminal underclass, about just who was responsible for disrupting Gideon De Ville’s plans to blow up the Trismegistus Club. It is no secret that you have been made a member of that club die to your actions. It is possible that the questions have been asked on behalf of Gideon De Ville. I’ve picked up and questioned a few ne’er-do-wells, but they claim ignorance of De Ville, and they claim that they were never asking about you in the first place. I have had an officer watching your house, hoping to catch De Ville if he made some attack against your person. But nothing has happened so far. I think that De Ville is clever enough not to act while somebody is watching the place. But it is almost certain that he knows your name by now.
“It may be that he has used Magick to control the minds of people, those thugs who have been asking questions about what happened at the Trismegistus Club. Apart from that great gorilla, we have never had any indication that De Ville has had any associates in the past.
“Anyway, the reason why I have paid this house call is to warn you that I can’t spare the manpower to keep up a watch on your place any more. He will have to be withdrawn. Now, it is possible that people on the streets of Blackchapel have simply heard that the Trismegistus Club almost got blow up, and are simply curious as to what happened. It might not have anything to do with De Ville. But I don’t think so. No, the street people of places like Blackchapel and Spitalfields rarely take any interest in the affairs of wizards. I think that De Ville is behind these questions. But, despite my questioning, nobody admits to having seen him.
“Gideon De Ville is a bad sort, Le Fay, as I think you may realise. He is the sort of person to harbour a grudge for decades, even over trivial matters. But you helped disrupt his plans, and he will come for you. Therefore I suggest that you are not here when he comes. Give us a chance to catch the rogue. He doesn’t have a secret lair any more, and it’s only a matter of time before I catch up with him again. And next time I won’t be quite so official, if you understand.”
At that instance Steel moved his coat aside to show Edwyn Le Fay that he was carrying a revolver. He flicked his coat back, and carried on with his speech.
“So I suggest that you find somewhere to hide away, Mr Le Fay, for a short while. Go away on holiday, and use a different name. I’ll make sure that the newspapers carry the arrest of Gideon De Ville. I’ve got him on the run, now, and it won’t be long, I can assure you.”
“What? How?” Le Fay had a lot of questions. But he was not sure which one to ask first.
“How?” Steel said, thinking that Le Fay was referring to how he came to be sitting in a chair in the living room. “I banged on your door, but there was no reply. My man said that you had gone out some time ago, but not with any luggage, so I knew that you would be back later.
“I let myself in through your kitchen window. It simply slides up. I would do something about that, if I was you, Le Fay, anybody could get into this place. You want better security when you have enemies like Gideon De Ville.”
“You have had a man watching my house?” Le Fay expostulated. “I am not some common criminal.” the police had watched his house before, when Steel had said that he had suspected Le Fay of having stolen some spellbooks. But that had only been a ruse to get Le Fay to find the location of the real thief – Gideon De Ville. Le Fay had not expected the police to carry on watching him after his innocence had been proved.
“Only to protect you.” Steel said. “I had thought that De Ville might exact his revenge quickly. But I should have known better. He will gather as much information about you as possible, and then spend a long time planning a suitable revenge, believe me. I have spent a long time trying to bring this particular villain to justice.”
“Why haven’t I heard anything about De Ville beforehand? I mean, in the newspapers? I am a wizard, yet even I had not heard of Gideon De Ville until a short while ago.”
“Because I have made every effort to keep the name of Gideon De Ville out of the newspapers. Would you worry the people of London by telling them that there is some diabolist living among them – or under them – who the police have not been able to catch? No, there is o need to worry the good people of this great city. Also, Gideon De Ville is a somewhat secretive character, as I am sure that you must realise by now. Over the years he has been responsible for at least a dozen crimes, up to and including murder. But does he reveal himself? No, he does not. For many years he has been nothing more than a phantom, with that secret lair to take refuge in.
“That refuge is gone, now, Le Fay, and we have him on the run. It’s only a matter of time. So will you do as I advise, and make yourself scarce?”
“Very well.” Le Fay said. “If I must.”
“Where will you go? I know that you have family in the north of England. But if I can discover that fact then so can De Ville.”
“If I must hide away then I will go to Scotland.”
Le Fay wasn’t going to Scotland. He had only just come back from there, and his investigation of Lochindorb Castle. He had found Scotland to be cold and wet, and not to his liking at all. No, he decided that he would go abroad, out of the country. Gideon De Ville would never discover him if he went out of the country.
He would go to Paris. He had never been to Paris. But he knew that there was a school of Magick there. it was possible that there might be somebody there who might help him with one of his two quests: to get some of the book of Black Earth translated, and to find out more about that late seventeenth century Black Magician, Edward Lang.
He spoke a little French, anyway. It was about the only modern language which they bothered to teach at High Tor. Things like Latin and Ancient Greek would not be quite so useful. He would manage, anyway. Most sensible people, he felt, should be able to speak English.
“I don’t need to know where.” Steel said, as he stood up. “I would leave as soon as possible, Mr Le Fay. But don’t worry about De Ville. I’ll get him. Now, would you care to show me out, as I would prefer not to have to climb back out via your kitchen window?”
Le Fay showed Detective Inspector Steel out, and bolted the front door once the police man had gone. Then he went and got a couple of long nails, and a hammer, and nailed shut the kitchen window (hitting the end of his thumb in the process).
It took a couple of days for Edwyn Le Fay to put his affairs in order, such as they were. Besides, Steel had thought that De Ville would not strike immediately. So he might have some time. He did not really have all that much to do, apart from to convert all of his available funds into French francs.
Le Fay packed up a large trunk with all of the things he thought might be needed. His spellbooks were the first thing which went into the trunk. Then the Book of Black Earth went inside. There was no way that he was going to leave that behind, where it might be stolen. Far too many people – from Al the urchin to the Naith twins to Detective Inspector Steel – seemed to think that they could enter his lodgings whenever they wanted to.
The trunk was filled out by a plethora of other items necessary to a gentleman wizard – a shaving kit, his copy of Burke’s Wizardage, a Paris guidebook, a few clothes, and so on
His mythometer and ever-burning taper went in the pockets of his coat. He always kept those close to hand. And he bought a copy of the Strand magazine to read on the journey.
He caught the train from Victoria, travelling on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. As he got on the train he kept an eye out for Gideon De Ville, as though the Black Magician would be at the station, waiting for him. But of course the old wizard wasn’t there. There wasn’t any gorilla there, either. Then it was the ferry across from Dover.
Edwyn Le Fay did not like the ferry ride across the Channel. He wished that he had taken the zeppelin directly from Stansted to Paris. But the ferry crossing (not counting the trains) was only 8d, whereas if he had caught the zeppelin it would have set him back £1 9s for the cheapest ticket. While he possessed that much money, he could not really afford to spend it on the journey. For many people, that was a month’s wages or more. Yes, travel by zeppelin was really only for the wealthiest people in the world.
Le Fay had decided that, whatever happened, he might as well stay in Paris for as long as possible – which would be until his money ran out, he supposed, and he had to return to England. But he would not waste his time. He would try to discover new Magicks while he was in Paris. As to the other diversions of that city – well, Edwyn was not really interested in such things, he told himself.
The train from Calais arrived on time in Paris. Edwyn hailed a cab, and was taken to the Magnifique, a hotel recommended in Edwyn’s guidebook to Paris, and not that far from the Gare du Nord railway station. The clerk on the desk spoke excellent English, so Edwyn was able to make himself understood with no difficulty. He said that he would possibly be staying for a couple of weeks – Edwyn had worked that out from the prices – and then went up to his room.
Edwyn settled into his room, and slept. He had intended to go out and explore. But the journey had tired him out. So all that the wizard did, on what was left of his first day in Paris, was to sleep.
The next day, after an insubstantial breakfast of coffee and a brioche, Edwyn and his guidebook went out to explore. He wanted to visit l’Ecole Magicaire, the Parisian equivalent of High Tor, but he decided that could wait. He might be Paris for some time. The school dated back to 1644, and was the first school of Magick to open in what was ostensibly a Roman Catholic country. But Edwyn was not quite sure how to approach that institution, anyway. He could not just barge into the place and ask if somebody could translate Atlantean. No, he would give some though to the matter of l’Ecole Magicaire.
He decided to see some of the sights which the guidebook had told him about. His first stop was the Eiffel Tower, constructed only some five years beforehand. He thought that he might as well go and see it while he could, as his guidebook informed him that it was due to be taken down in 1909. And, while that date was some fifteen years in the future, Edwyn did not know if he would ever return to Paris on this trip.
He went up on the lift. There was no way that he was going to walk up all of those stairs. He went straight up to the third level, when he got to the top, where there were supposed to be Magickal laboratories. But Edwyn was disappointed to discover that they were not open to the general public. He went back down a couple of levels and had a chicken salad at one of the restaurants, instead.
Then he stepped out onto the promenade and wished that he hadn’t. He really felt dizzy, and had to go back inside, away from the drop. He decided just then that he did not particularly care for heights. A few decades ago there had been a slight mania for things Indian or Persian, and a few wizards had been known to flit about the sky on Magick Carpets. But Edwyn did not know how they could have dared to do that. He would have been terrified of falling off.
From the Eiffel Tower he went and had a look at some of the many monuments of Paris, such as the Column of Sedan and the Luxor Obelisk.
Then Edwyn scurried back to his hotel room. He had left the Book of Black Earth in his trunk, and Edwyn had suddenly been seized by the fear that the ancient tome had been stolen. Edwyn was so sure that he would discover that it was gone that he let out a gasp of surprise when he discovered that it was still in his travelling trunk, after all.
He clasped it to his chest. It hadn’t been stolen after all. But he could not simply leave it in his hotel room. He was only asking for trouble if he did something like that. But it was too heavy to carry around with him.
He wondered if the hotel had a safe. But could he trust them? Would there be awkward questions as to what the book actually was? But Edwyn did not see how he had an alternative.
He would not be putting the book in any safe the way that it looked. He went through some of the other stuff which he had put in the case. He was sure that he had brought what he needed. Yes, there it was, some thick brown paper, suitable for parcels. He had brought that just in case there was anything which he had wanted to post back from Paris. There was some sting, as well.
He wrapped the book up in the brown paper, tying it with the string. He wrote his name on the brown paper. Then he took it downstairs.
He had no trouble having it stored in the safe. The hotel clerk was happy to keep his parcel in the hotel safe. He did not even ask what it was, only commenting that it was surprisingly heavy.
With that particular weight of his mind Edwyn spent the rest of the day exploring Paris.
On the second day of his sojourn in Paris Edwyn continued to explore the city. He discovered, in one of the many covered passages of the city, a small shop which sold books on Magick. He spent over an hour browsing through the shop. He had not intended to buy any such book while in Paris, as he did possess a small library of books about Magick at home. The point of being in Paris was to try and make his money last, while Steel hopefully dealt with Gideon De Ville.
In the end, though, Edwyn Le Fay could not resist making a purchase. He bought a copy of Archidoxis Magica, a treatise on Protective Magick published in the sixteenth century. The book was extremely dog-eared, which probably explained why the price was low: Edwyn Le Fay would not normally have been able to afford it.
It would not do him any harm to read up on mystical protections, anyway, if somebody like Gideon De Ville intended some vengeance against him.
The following day Edwyn finally went along to l’Ecole Magicaire in the 5th arrondissement, the Latin Quarter. But Edwyn was to be disappointed if he had imagined that anybody there would help him. He did not know that the Magickal college had a reputation for being territorial, and that it had blocked attempts by other cities in France to open their own Magickal colleges. It also regarded itself as being the best Magickal college in the world – better than High Tor, better than the College of Sortilege in Edinburgh, better than any of the other Magickal colleges in continental Europe.
First of all Edwyn discovered that none of the people who he spoke to at l’Edole Magicaire would speak in English. He had to try to make himself understood in French. The only problem was that his French really was very poor. It took him ages to make them understand that he was interested in any material on the late seventeenth century wizard, Edward Lang.
But he was told, in French that he barely understood and which had to be repeated for this Englishman, that l’Ecole Magicaire was not interested in English wizards, and did not have any material concerning them, whoever they were. It appeared that they had not even heard of Edward Lang, something which surprised Le Fay. But as he probably could not have named a famous French wizard, perhaps he should not have been so surprised.
Despite the short shrift he got over Edward Lang, he asked if anybody there could translate Atlantean into English, or teach him to do the same. He did not mention that it was the Book of Black Earth which he wanted translated. That was one secret which he would not reveal until he had to. Again Edwyn was disappointed. He was told that nobody at the college was interested in translating anything into English; and that if there were any translations of ancient or mystical languages, then they would be into French. He went away feeling rather annoyed with the place. But l’Ecole Magicaire had probably acted no differently than High Tor would have if some unknown French wizard had turned up on their door, asking if they could translate something from Enochian into French for him.
Edwyn consoled himself by going and having another look in the bookshop where he had obtained that copy of Archidoxis Magica from, hoping to find another, similar bargain. But what books he could afford he didn’t really want; and what books he desired were out of his price range. They had a mint copy of Magia Posthumia, by Ferdinand de Schertz, which he would have loved to have possessed, as it was supposed to deal with the little known school of Magick called Blood Magick. But the tome cost more money than he had brought to Paris with him. For a moment he considered putting the book under his coat and smuggling it out of there. But he rejected the idea just as quickly. He was not a thief; and he would have been bound to get caught. it was one thing taking a book which nobody knew was there – like the book of Black Earth, or taking books from the house of a dead wizard when you think (or tell yourself) that they are simply there for the taking. But it was a very different matter to steal from some store. It was wrong, and illegal, and would have only resulted in him ending up in some French equivalent of Bradley Tower. He had not come to Paris to get into trouble, but to stay out of it.
That ended Edwyn Le Fay trying to find out information on Magick during his stay in Paris. During the next few weeks he had a holiday from Magick, as much as he had ever had. Although, a few times, he did practice one of his spells of Protection in his hotel room at night, using chalk to mark out a very small protective circle on the carpet. He did always wipe the chalk off the carpet later. But Edwyn Le Fay was still very much aware that Gideon De Ville had not been caught, as the English wizard purchased an English newspaper on each day of his stay in Paris, scouring it for news that some Black Magician had been caught by Scotland Yard.
In the days and weeks which followed Edwyn Le Fay did just about everything that there was to do in Paris, in this golden age of that great city. Paris, the capital of the victor in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, was probably at its height, and it counted itself to be the greatest city in the world (Edwyn, of course, still plumbed for London). It was a city of pleasure, of art, and of entertainment. And Edwyn indulged, as much as some skinny English wizard ever did.
He tried a glass of absinthe. But he didn’t particularly like it. It tasted like alcoholic liquorice to him. And he had never had a taste for liquorice.
He saw the cathedral of Notre-dame and had a look at the Paris Observatory. He ate at many of the interesting places in Paris, including the Café Tortoni Paris and Grand Véfour.
Before Edwyn Le Fay left Paris he even went on a tour of the sewers beneath Paris. Although the first sewers dated back to 1370, the sewers had been modernised years ago, when Baron Haussmann had rebuilt a great amount of the city.
Seeing the sewers had, in fact, been one of the first things which Edwyn Le Fay had intended to do after arriving in the fair city of Paris. Edwyn had thought that you could simply go down for a look around the sewers (he should really have finished reading his guidebook). But he discovered that you had has to apply by letter for order to the Directeur des Eaux at the Hotel de Ville. This Edwyn duly did, of course, going down on one of the fortnightly Wednesday tours of the Parisian sewers.
He was told that the sewers were over four hundred miles in length – a person could easily get lost in them, Edwyn thought. He wondered if there were any secrets in them. He liked secrets, being a wizard. Perhaps somebody had hidden something down in the sewers. But he was not going to split off from the touring party and take a look, just in case he got into trouble. Or in case he got lost, which was far more likely.
The guide to the sewers was telling people that the sewers were cleaned by having great stone balls rolled along them when Edwyn thought that he saw something. He had been trailing at the back of the party, wondering if anybody had ever hidden treasure under Paris. If there had been sewers since 1370… and there had been the Templars based in Paris, as well, before the authorities had turned against them and hunted down the members of the order.
It had been alleged that the Templars had been involved in Black Magick. But that might only have been propaganda justifying the Catholic Church and the French state seizing the Templar wealth, as they had been a very rich order. the rumours, though, were that only a fraction of the real Templar wealth had ever come to light; and Edwyn Le Fay, as he meandered along at the back of the party, could not help wondering if some of that undiscovered wealth was buried somewhere near Paris.
Suddenly Edwyn thought that he saw something out of the corner of his eye, some movement in the darkness. He turned to look. But there was nothing there – only the darkness as the light of the touring party went forward.
For a second, though, Edwyn would have sworn that he had glimpsed a great, black ape, lurking in the darkness, trailing the party. He shook his head and told himself that he was imagining things. He hurried to catch up with the touring party before he was left alone in the dark.
There was no way that it could have been a gorilla, Edwyn told himself. It must just have been a trick of the light. It did not occur to Edwyn that, if Gideon De Ville had set up some underground lair beneath London, then the Black Magician might also have invested in a similar sanctuary beneath the streets if Paris. It did not occur to Edwyn that Gideon De Ville might be so powerful a wizard that he could use Portal Magick to transport himself and his pet gorilla to Paris in one go; or that the reason why Detective Inspector Steel had not yet caught Gideon De Ville was that Gideon de Ville was not in Britain to catch.
Edwyn completed his tour of the sewers without seeing anything strange, and, by the time that he emerged back into the light of the day he had convinced himself that he had not really seen anything at all. Which was why Edwyn Le Fay never bothered writing to Steel to tell him what he had seen.
Edwyn Le Fay had no more strange encounters, unless you count the instance when a ‘dancer’ invited Edwyn back to her place. But, when Edwyn understood what was going on – and that he would have to pay for this new experience – he ran away like a rabbit chased by the master’s hounds.
Edwyn did not mind seeing scandalous dances at the Folies-Bergère or the Moulin Rouge, but he was not yet ready for something closer and more personal.
Eventually Le Fay’s money began to dwindle away. There had still been nothing in any of the newspapers concerning an arrest of Gideon De Ville, and Le Fay had made sure that he had got hold of English newspapers, rather than French ones. It seemed that Steel had not yet caught De Ville, after all, despite the fact that the detective had said that it was only a matter of time. Le Fay should have known that the police would let him down.
It was time to return to England. But not London. London was not safe enough, if Steel was to be believed. No, first Edwyn would go home, to see if he could wheedle out a slight increase to his stipend from his father. Then it would be off to Oxford, to carry on the research into the supposed Black Magician, Edward Lang.