Author’s note. This is a chapter in the ongoing adventures of the Victorian wizard Edwyn Le Fay. It is suggested that readers read these stories, in this order, before reading about Le Fay in Oxford:
The Darkj House
The House On the Cliff
Mr Naith and Mr Naith
Searching for Gideon De Ville
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay at the Trismegistus Club
An Enforced Vacation
Edwyn Le Fay In Oxford
Edwyn Le Fay travelled back to England by boat train, the same combination which had taken him to Paris. The zeppelin, with Le Fay’s depleted funds, would simply have been a luxury which he could not afford. The train journey back through the countryside of northern France was perfectly acceptable.
The same, though, could not be said of the journey on the ferry. The sea was a lot rougher than when Le Fay had crossed on the way to France, and the wizard was sick over the side of the ship. It was then that Fay resolved that if he ever went to the continent again that it would be by zeppelin, no matter what the cost.
Dover was a sight for a sore stomach. Edwyn could not get off the boat quick enough, and onto a train bound for London.
In London he did not bother to go back to his lodgings. He had everything which he need in his trunk, anyway. No, instead, he caught a hansom cab to King’s Cross, and purchased a ticket to Wythenstow.
Wythenstow in the West Riding of Yorkshire was the home town of the Le Fay family (or at least Edwyn’s branch of it). There were Le Fays elsewhere; a few of them were wizards. Magick flowed strong in the blood of the Le Fay family, and it had come out in Edwyn. This meant that he had spent most of his youth in Glastonbury, training in the use of Magick, rather than at home in Wythenstow.
Edwyn Le Fay was not looking forward to the meeting with his father. Edwyn had always lived in fear of his father, a little, and he had looked forward, in the past, to each new term at High Tor, just so that he could get away from the family home. His father had got worse, over the years, becoming impossible to live with after the death of Edwyn’s mother.
Edwyn, on the train, looked out of the window at the British countryside. It had been sunny in France. But it was overcast, now, and it looked like rain. Edwyn would rather have been back in Paris. Well, actually, he would rather have been in his lodgings in London. But Detective Inspector Steel had told him that it was not safe there.
Edwyn had to change trains at Leeds, for the local train to Wythenstow. By the time that he got to Leeds he was only just in time for the last train of the day. There weren’t that many trains which stopped at Wythenstow. There wasn’t all that much there.
When Edwyn got off the train it was beginning to get dark. He was the only person who got off at Wythenstow. The place was only a holt, and it was so quiet that it did not even merit any station staff.
Edwyn was now faced with the problem of his trunk. There was a signal box, along the track some way. But Edwyn did not know any of the signalmen, and would not have trusted them to look after it, not overnight.
There was only one thing for it, as there was not a trolley at the station and Edwyn did not know any telekinesis spells powerful enough: he would have to drag his trunk the mile or so to his father’s house.
By the time that Edwyn got to his old family home his arms were killing him. Had there not been the Book of Black Earth and the Archidoxis Magica then he might have done so. But the thought of the ancient grimoire, and the guide to Magick, kept him going all of the way to where he had grown up.
The house was a large one, but not as large as might be expected, considering how much money Le Fay senior was supposed to be worth. Edwyn did not know just how much money his father actually had. He had made his fortune as a young man, investing in the industries of the north – in sheep, mills, mining, and others. George Le Fay had started out with very little money, and now was a very wealthy man, with investments which should keep the money flowing in for many years yet.
Le Fay senior, though, lived a frugal life, claiming that he didn’t have any servants as a child, and that he did not need any of them now. He did not need some nurse to wipe his chin. So, since Edwyn’s mother had died, some years ago, George Le Fay had lived all alone in his house.
Edwyn knocked on the door, but there was no reply, even though he could see a light on in one of the rooms. But it was just like his father to ignore a knock on the door. If Le Fay senior did not feel like getting up from what he was doing then all of the hounds of Hades would not drag him to his feet.
Edwyn still had a key somewhere. It was not on his person, though. He had to open up his trunk and fish around in there for five minutes before he found it. He closed up his trunk, and let himself in, dragging the trunk into the hall.
“Father, I am home.” Edwyn called out, hoping that his father was in a good mood.
“Ha, finally come to see your father, have you?” Edwyn heard his father shout back. He was in the drawing room. That was the room which had the light on. Edwyn walked in to see his father.
Le Fay senior sat in an armchair with the upholstery beginning to come out of it. Edwyn knew that his father could easily have had the chair re-upholstered. He could have bought a new armchair for every room of the house. But he preferred not to spend the money, and sit in a chair which was beginning to fall apart.
His body looked as though it, too, was slowly beginning to fall apart. Le Fay senior was still a broad-framed man. But he was more slouched than he had been in the past, his back bowed by time. His hair had turned white and thinned a little; apart from the eyebrows which, although they had also whitened, had thickened with age, so that it now looked like a pair of furry white caterpillars were perched on Le Fay’s brow.
“So you’re back.” George Le Fay said.
“Yes, father, I am back for the night. But I am heading down to Oxford tomorrow to do some research for my Magick.”
“Oxford, now is it? I am still sending your stipend to that place in London. Can’t recall what it’s called. I’ve got the address written down somewhere. I suppose that you want me to change where I’m sending you your money?”
This was it. Edwyn would have to say that he needed a little bit more money than normal to tide him over.
“No, father, I still live at the same address. But, father, I have had some additional expenses.” Edwyn Le Fay pleaded. “I need a little bit more money than normal. I have had to go to Paris on research, and I wondered, well, if you could see fit to allowing me ten pounds.”
“Do you think that I print pound notes?” Le Fay senior grumbled. “I am not the chancellor of the Bank of England, Edwyn. I paid for you to go to High Tor and study your Magick. But what have you done with it? Nothing, as far as I can tell. You live the high life in London, spending my hard earned money, and you haven’t accomplished anything, as far as I can tell. Why don’t you go off and invent something useful? I hear that a lot of wizards become inventors.”
“I saved the Trismegistus Club.” Edwyn said.
“What?” Le Fay senior had never even heard of the Trismegistus Club before.
“I saved the Trismegistus Club from being blown up. It is a gentleman’s club for wizards.” Edwyn explained.
“Is it? I’ve never heard of it. It can’t be that important.”
Edwyn sighed. He could tell that getting hold of some money was not going to be easy. His father was in one of his stubborn moods.
“Could I have some of my stipend early, father? I know that it is not due yet, but I have had some unforeseen expenses. The research trip to Paris, you see. I did mention it. And then there is one to Oxford…”
“What have you done? Have you got some young lady into trouble? I told you to stay away from Blackchapel and places like that.”
“No, father, I have not got some young lady into trouble, and I have stayed away from Blackchapel, just like you said. But I went over to Paris for a while…”
Not only was George Le Fay stubborn, but when he was in one of his grumbling moods you usually had to tell him something three or four times before he bothered to pay attention to it. He wasn’t deaf. He simply was no longer interested in the world.
“Paris? What were you doing in Paris?”
“I was doing some research…”
“What for? What was this research in aid of?”
“Magick, father. You know, what you sent me to High Tor for…”
“There’s no need to take that tone with me!” Le Fay senior suddenly snarled. “I know where I sent you to school! And I know how much it cost me, as well!”
“Sorry, father. I was thinking of writing a book all about Magick, possibly for the layman, its history and so on. If it sold then I would have something of an income, and I would no longer have to bother you for funds.”
“A book, eh?” George Le Fay said. His tone was a lot softer. “Well, people read books. I read books. Very well, Edwyn, you can have ten pounds to see you over. But this is the last time, Edwyn. This is the very last time.”
The idea about the book had suddenly come to him. He had no real desire to write a book. But the idea was to stay with Edwyn beyond his trip home.
Edwyn, when he finally got his hands on that ten pounds, breathed a big sigh of relief. That money, along with the money which he did not spend in France, should be enough to tide him over.
Edwyn stayed out of his father’s way for the rest of the evening. He did not want to get into some argument that might lead to that precious ten pounds being taken away. Edwyn was down at Wythenstowe railway station first thing the following morning, getting out of the house while the going was good.
Edwyn was glad to get away from his family home, and catch the train down to Oxford. Had he remained any longer than there would only have been some great argument between the two of them. The two of them got on much better when they were apart from each other. Edwyn reflected that was, perhaps, what people meant when they said that absence made the heart grow fonder.
Now, though, he could sit back in his seat and enjoy the train journey down to Oxford.
It was the first time that Edwyn Le Fay had been in Oxford. The young man really was not very well travelled. He had not been too Cambridge, either: but High Tor claimed that it gave young wizards just as good an education, in things other than Magick, as those two great university towns (Oxford and Cambridge would disagree).
He got off the Great Western train at the main railway station, close to where the Austin Friars settled. The day was bright, albeit a little cold. Edwyn wished that he had his scarf with him. But it was somewhere in the bottom of his trunk.
His trunk was too heavy to drag around Oxford; and he was not sure where he was going to stay. So there was little point, yet, in loading it onto a hansom cab. He wished that he had a guide to Oxford. His guide to Paris had even given him the names of what hotels he should stay at.
He resolved the problem of his heavy trunk by renting a locker at the station. He could leave it in there, at least until he found somewhere to stay in the town. He needed somewhere where his belongings would be safe, before he turn his thoughts to exploring Oxford; and then to trying to find out what he could about Edward Lang, one of the more infamous people who had been born in the Oxford area.
It occurred to Edwyn that what he had said to his father – that he was writing a book on Magick – might be a good ploy to use to try to get people to assist him. It was better than simply saying that he was interested in the life and work of somebody who was seen as a Black Magician. Yes, a general book on Magick and its history; and he was in Oxford researching wizards from the local area. One of whom just happened to be Edward Lang.
He found some rooms which were £1 10s shillings a week. With the money that he had – the ten pounds from his father, and the remainder of the money which he had taken to Paris – he should be alright for the next month or so, and he did not intend to spend more than a month in oxford, anyway. Surely Steel would have caught up with Gideon De Ville by then?
He spent the rest of that day just settling into his temporary abode. He could begin the research on Edward Lang on the following day. It was not like he was in a rush.
The next day Edwyn Le Fay went around the Ashmoleum, that museum which had been founded by the alchemist and wizard Elias Ashmole. Edwyn had hoped that they might have something on Edward Lang. It had the original draft of the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. It had a stuffed Dodo. It had a supposed Curate’s Egg, those strange eggs laid by hens who have been exposed to Magick, and which can produce chaotic results when cracked open. It had a Greenstone. But there was absolutely nothing on Edward Lang. Edwyn left the museum feeling more than a little disappointed.
There were plenty of other places in Oxford to conduct his research, however. There were all of the universities, for example; not to mention the Bodleian Library.
Edwyn Le Fay did not spend the following day at the Bodleian, though, or any of the universities. He had intended to go to the universities. But, on leaving his temporary lodgings, he had thought that somebody was following him, and he had a sudden fear that he was being followed by somebody working for Gideon Le Fay. Edwyn Le Fay, instead, walked around Oxford until he realised that it had just been his imagination, and nobody had been following him, after all.
By the time that Edwyn realised that he had been imagining the person following him, he was standing in front of Martyrs’ Memorial, that spire rising up out of the ground dedicated to Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer.
Edwyn Le Fay had never heard of the memorial before (as he was only interested in Magick). The spire looked odd to him. It made him think of some sunken church, with only the spire showing above the level of the ground. That made him think of Gideon De Ville, and his underground lair. If anybody could cause a building to sink down into the ground it was Gideon De Ville.
The train of thoughts left Edwyn feeling in an odd mood. He decided to not research Edward Lang that day, but to have a day walking around Oxford instead, looking at the sights of the city.
He visited Oxford Cathedral (he doubted whether anybody like Gideon De Ville would ever go in there). He had a wander around the covered Market, established by John Gwynn in 1774. He had a look at Oxford Castle, and was a little surprised to discover that it was a prison (having become one only six years beforehand, in 1888).
Edwyn had a day relaxing and not thinking about Magick. It probably did him the world of good.
The next day he went to the Bodleian Library. That would be his next place for research.
It was his first time in this great library (although even Edwyn Le Fay had heard of the Bod, of course). He was a little surprised to discover that he had to say an oath before being allowed to go and look at the books and manuscripts. He recited the oath, reading out from a piece of paper:
“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”
Edwyn Le Fay would stick to the oath. Things like oaths and geases were very important to wizards, and most wizards had a tendency to respect them. Even though this oath was non-mystical in nature Edwyn Le Fay would respect it. Even if he had discovered the lost spellbooks of Edward Lang he would not have tried to remove them from the library.
Edwyn Le Fay began his research. It was going to take a long time, as there were thousands upon thousands of manuscripts and books which he would need to search through. That was with even excluding those things which could not possibly have any connection with Edward Lang.
Edwyn spent days at the Bodleian Library, looking for things which might indicate that Edward Lang had somehow survived his supposed hanging. He found very little on the wizard, however, and nothing which he did not already know – the Bodleian is not really a Magick library, after all. It possesses few books on Magick, and no grimoires.
Edwyn Le Fay did discover another copy of that pamphlet which he had read in the British Library: On Shadows, and Thaumaturgie in relation to their Nature; by a Local Author. It was the booklet on this supposed Shadow Magick which Edwyn Le Fay believed must have been written by Edward Lang, despite the fact that no name had been attached to the work.
Edwyn did not find any more evidence that Lang might have survived, at least to begin with. He went through book after book, until he realised that he was not going to find anything to support his theory in some published work.
There were manuscripts in the Bodleian Library as well, though. If Edwyn Le Fay was going to find anything it would be in those. It was to those – and particularly to ones concerning Oxford – which Edwyn turned his attention next.
He spent more days looking through all manner of manuscripts, many concerning the Bodleian Library itself, others concerning Oxford and its history.
He searched through documents concerning Sir Richard Steele; Joseph Addison; John Evelyn; and on many other people who had lived in the Oxford area at the same time as Edward Lang. He read up on the histories of Charterhouse and other colleges, although Lang’s education was unknown, after he had left High Tor. Le Fay read every scrap of paper which he could which related to Oxford in the late seventeenth century and the very early eighteenth century.
He annoyed the librarians with constantly asking questions as to whether they had more material relating to those years. He had to tell them that he was doing research on Edward Lang, in the end, as they kept bringing him material which was of no interest to him. But as he was using an alias, anyway, he hoped that he would not get into trouble for researching somebody like Lang. But the librarians did not seem to care about that, anyway. They just seemed to want him to stop bothering.
He found the death warrant for the hanging of Edward Lang; but not the death certificate, curiously enough. But that probably would not have come to the Bodleian, anyway. It was something, though, that death certificate. It did mean that the Bod might have some material on Lang. It kept him searching, when he might otherwise have given up.
Then, one day, while searching through a box of seemingly worthless documents which had been donated to the Bod years ago he thought that he had some of the proof which he had been searching for: a single, scrawled note on parchment. His hands shook as he read it.
Edwyn Le Fay stared at the handwritten note. It said that a wizard and all his appurtenances were to be transported from Cowley to Blackchapel in London.
Edward Lang was supposed to have lived in a house close to Oxford – which would have been a very small town when Lang had been alive. It would have been nothing but a small market town; and Cowley an even smaller, separate conurbation.
It had to be Edward Lang who had moved down to London. The handwritten note was not dated, but the paper felt very old to Le Fay. But the note could not have been written before the Great Fire of London, because it was the smoke from that fire which had stained the original ‘White Chapel’ – the church of St Mary Matfelon – beyond the ability of soap and water to clean. It became known as the Black Chapel, instead, and eventually gave its name to that area of London.
Edwyn Le Fay guessed that it might be a decade or two before people began referring to the area as Blackchapel in notes or letters concerning London. That would make it the 1680s or later; and Edward Lang was supposed to have been executed in 1706 (according to one record). The note had to be from his time.
Despite there not being a name, Edwyn Le Fay reasoned that the note had to be Lang. How many wizards could there have been living in the Cowley area, anyway? It had to be Lang. He must have decided that it would not be safe to stay near Oxford, in case he was recognised. London, in those days, would be far enough to be safe.
He would have changed his name, though. That was a certainty. Edwyn Le Fay knew from his history of Magick that there was no mention of Edward Lang beyond the date when he was supposed to have been executed. He had gone to Blackchapel, and changed his name.
That was where Edwyn would have to go next. It was time for him to return to London, whether Gideon De Ville had been caught, or not.
Besides, he could not really afford to stay in Oxford any longer.