Arabella Strange returned to England to find that her house in Soho-square, as well as the Ashfair property, were nowhere to be found. Her husband’s solicitors were at a loss to determine the best course of action.
“The history would suggest that the residence of a deceased magician, in the absence of heirs, disappears from the known world unless he took care to will the property to another party.” Mr. Smith explained uncomfortably. “Of course, the circumstances of your case are most unusual – not only is Mr. Strange alive (if somewhat indisposed), you yourself were believed to have, ahem, passed away at the time of his disappearance. As far as English law is concerned, if Mr. Strange were to have died, he would have died intestate. And it appears that in this case, magical law is crudely based upon English property law…”
After several difficult meetings of this nature, Arabella was forced to accept that not only was she left without a home of her own, but she had no income from the Ashfair estate.
“I am besieged by letters begging me to publish Jonathan’s papers,” she told Lady Pole over tea one day, “and if I could bring A History of English Magic back into print, I imagine I could be comfortable for a year. Sadly, the only printed copy was in Hurtfew and most of Jonathan’s papers were lost with the house.”
The ill-fortune of her friend did not dispose Lady Pole to any greater sympathy for magic. She was convinced that it was a tool in the hands of the callous and mighty to work their will upon the meek and unfortunate. Now it seemed magic itself was capriciously indifferent to the practical necessities of life.
“I think it is only fair,” she told Arabella, “that the government should offer you a pension after your husband’s service to the country. It is shameful that we should have to ask it of them. They should be falling over themselves to offer you one. But I shall write to the Lord Commissioners of the Treasury to-night and demand that they grant you one.”
“You are too kind to me, Emma,” said Arabella.
“Nonsense,” cried Lady Pole. “You have been a better friend to me than any in the past ten years, both here and in that God-forsaken place. Had I a sister, I could not love her more. Now we must find a place for you to settle.”
Arabella replied, “My brother has invited me to live with him in Great Hitherden but he is wont to treat me as an invalid since my return, and his attentions are as intrusive as they are well-intentioned.”
“I would gladly go to Gloucestershire to keep you company, my dear Arabella,” replied Lady Pole, “but it is in London that I must conduct my campaign to reform English magic. You must remain in town to help me. Indeed,” Lady Pole said brightly, “why do you not come live with me? We would not have to waste a single moment working on our reforms.”
“You are the soul of kindness, my Emma, but I could not impose on you and Sir Walter…,” Arabella began.
“Sir Walter would invite the Royal Circus to live with us if I wished it,” Lady Pole interrupted. “I think it is a most sensible idea. I abhor this house and its memories, but leaving London is out of the question. Having you with me would comfort me beyond measure!”
Mrs. Strange was eventually prevailed upon to come live at 9 Harley-street.
Arabella found the house much changed from when she came to visit Lady Pole in her troubled days. The pale cold light that seemed to afflict everything was now washed out by the bright sunlight pouring in through the windows. Emma insisted on the curtains being drawn back in every room she spent her morning hours in, to the extent that the furniture was beginning to fade. But there was no tolerance for shadows in Lady Pole’s domain, and Arabella was surprised by how much comfort she drew from that.
The only discomfort she experienced was in observing the domestic disharmony between her hosts, as she observed Sir Walter struggle to make small-talk with his wife while Lady Pole responded with less-than-wifely sentiment.
Sir Walter demonstrated the utmost warmth and brotherly feeling toward Arabella, stopping to make conversation with her on the days he was at home and Emma had fled the house on her many errands.
“I do hope that you feel as comfortable here as you would in your own home,” he asked her after chancing upon her in the library one day.
Arabella assured him that she could not be more at ease than with such solicitous hosts, and that she was grateful that they took her in during her time of difficulty.
“It is I who am grateful for your presence,” Sir Walter told her. “Your arrival has lifted her ladyship’s spirits immeasurably. I had begun to despair of ever seeing my wife content, having first lost her to illness and magic, and then to the bitterness she bore toward those who permitted her to suffer. I thank God every day for restoring my wife to me, but it seems she would be happier without me as a constant reminder of my failings.”
“Please do not think so,” Arabella hurried to reassure him, though she could not be certain of the truth of her words. “In her heart she has every fondness for you.”
Sir Walter shook his head. “You are kind to say so, Mrs. Strange, but Lady Pole holds me in blame for allowing her to languish in that prison for a decade. And she has every right to!”
“You did everything you could think of to provide her comfort,” Arabella reminded him.
“It was not enough,” he replied simply. He took his leave, and left Arabella to ponder the circumstances.
When Lady Pole returned from calling on Lady Liverpool, Arabella questioned her.
“I wonder why you hold Sir Walter to blame for your enchantment.” she said. “There are many others deserving of your anger, and he did what he could to comfort you.”
Lady Pole was silent for a while, but then spoke, “Perhaps my husband does not deserve my ill-humour, but I cannot forget that he stood beside me for years without hearing my cries for help. My speech was muffled by enchantment, but there was truth enough in my prattle that anyone who cared to listen would have eventually learned my fate. Instead, he dismissed my words as nonsense. I begged to see the magicians and he chose not to bother those important men with my whims. When I tried to fight my own way out, he had me locked away like a madwoman.”
Her fingers tightened around Arabella’s as she continued, “What good are his apologies? He vowed to help and comfort in prosperity and adversity, but in my time of need he could not. How can I esteem him as a husband when he failed me in this?”
“Have your relations become so ill,” Arabella asked, “that you do not feel respect for him?”
“It is not what I wish,” replied Emma. “If I could put aside all the suffering of the past years and start anew with him, it would not be so bad. I know he is a good man at heart, perhaps better than most. But I have no illusion of him as a protector and helpmeet.”
Arabella let it rest at that. She hoped that in time her friend would find some peace from her ordeal, and Sir Walter would be patient in regaining his wife’s regard.
As for herself, Arabella had many practical concerns that kept her from dwelling on her recent trials. After much effort by Sir Walter and no small number of letters writ by Lady Pole to the High Lord Treasurer, she was granted a small pension. It was scarcely enough to maintain an independent household in London and she had to chuse between continuing to reside with her friends, or else retiring to the country. While she did not doubt the sincerity of the Poles’ invitation to live with them as long as she desired, it ill-suited her to feel obliged to others. After all, she understood Emma’s displeasure at feeling helpless better than anyone.
Shortly thereafter, the Poles and Mrs. Strange were called upon by Mr. John Segundus. As Lady Pole’s deliverer, he was welcomed warmly and pressed to stay for dinner. He told them of recent events unfolding at the madhouse at Starecross Hall, where Lady Pole made her recovery from enchantment.
“The upheaval of magic that took place in the area has left enough traces upon the house that patients no longer find it restful,” he explained. “It is not dangerous, I think, but can be agitating to those whose nerves are of delicate constitution.”
“Then what is to become of the asylum?” asked Arabella.
“Mrs. Lennox, the owner of the house, thinks it is time to revisit our original plans to open a school for those of magical talent. Mr. Norrell is no longer in a position to interfere, and there is a great demand for magical pedagogy.”
Lady Pole cried, “Surely you do not think England needs to create more magicians to wreak havoc on our lives?”
“On the contrary, Your Ladyship,” replied Mr. Segundus, “I hope this school will curtail the students’ incautious impulses. Magical ability is blossoming whether we like it or not. Is it not better to take aside those with the capacity for mischief and shew them the path that propriety demands?”
“But how far can you control your pupils, sir? Those who taste power are seldom content to live on what is carefully meted out to them.”
“In that I was hoping to gain your advice,” he addressed both Lady Pole and Mrs. Strange. “No one is better aware than you of what mischief a magician can create if not warned of the consequences. Who would be more inspired to instruct pupils of the responsibilities they bear as they apply themselves to magical study? If you could assist me in devising a curriculum that entreats young magicians to be fully aware of the repercussion of their work, it would be a boon to the field and to England in general.”
Lady Pole wished him well on this worthy endeavour, but regretted that her lingering distaste for magic made her an unlikely advocate for the use of it, however responsibly practiced. However, Arabella was more enthusiastic and gladly offered her services.
Even after she retired for the day, her thoughts were drawn to Mr. Segundus’ proposition. The more she considered it, the more she was inclined to be useful and apply the small understanding of magic she had gained in the years she lived with Jonathan and the months she spent in the thick of a Faerie court.
But she had promised Lady Pole that she would stay in London and assist her in her campaign of reform, so her assistance of Mr. Segundus would need be confined to correspondence.
When King George III heard the sound of bells in the night, he first assumed the bells in Curfew Tower were ringing at an untimely hour. But the tone of the bells was unfamiliar – somewhat brighter and more sonorous. And it appeared to be coming from the servants’ wing.
He begged the pardon of the cushion with which he had been conversing and followed the sound of the bells to a small room generally used for storing linens. There he found an elderly but spry gentleman with curlicue eyebrows, dressed in an unfamiliar livery, who bowed deeply upon the king’s entrance.
“Your most excellent Majesty,” he began, “I bring you the salutations of the Nameless King, Lord of Fair-hope, Protector of the Gates of Faerie, and late Butler of 9 Harley-street. He sends me as his ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, offering you his deepest regard and recognition of your rightful claim to the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland.”
“That is most thoughtful of him,” remarked King George. “These days my son does all the interesting work meeting delegates, and it has been much too long since anyone cared to visit me. The last time I had the opportunity to meet a fellow king was that fascinating man with the silvery hair. I don’t suppose you know him?”
The ambassador with the curlicue eyebrows replied, “I beg your Majesty’s pardon, the gentleman in question has been succeeded by the Nameless King, who has taken the throne and is eager to strengthen relations between England and his own lands in Faerie.”
“Ah,” said the King. “Yes. The bark beetle in the bed post has been going on about all that. I commend your King on his skill at statesmanship. I myself have no patience for politics, but I cannot help but admire his command of a court that, by all reports, is full of thieves, ruffians, and turncoats. Perhaps I could offer him Parliament as a Coronation gift.”
“The Nameless King seeks only your Majesty’s friendship,” the ambassador assured King George, “and looks forward to meeting you in person when the opportunity presents itself.” Then he took his leave, bowed deeply, and disappeared behind a tall stack of eiderdowns.
King George returned to the cushion with which he had been conversing earlier and remarked, “I have had many meetings with foreign ambassadors in my years, but this one was by far the least tedious.”
The cushion indicated that it was listening intently.
“Where do you suppose this Nameless King has misplaced his name?” he mused. “When we meet, I shall offer to help him find it. I found Sir Francis Walsingham hiding inside my shoe once, which suggests I have no small talent for finding things.”
The cushion sagely kept its own counsel.
Lady Pole anticipated the London Season with the fervour of a mother with a bevy of daughters of marriageable age. She had spent the preceding months prevailing upon the hostesses of the most select salons and been invited to speak of her travails. Her ladyship and Arabella carefully composed the proposed lecture, endeavouring to highlight the tragedy of their imprisonments and call for the high-minded reform of magical practice. Lady Pole wished for Great Britain to declare war upon Faerie and extract reparations for all who had been ill-used by fairy-folk. Arabella advocated a more moderate approach – there was little public enthusiasm for war after the recent adventures on the continent, and they were certain to appeal to more cautious minds by calling for restrictions on magicians’ dealings with faeries.
The first salon of the season was held by Lady Cottingham who was a cousin of Lady Pole’s mother. The drawing room was filled beyond the usual attendance that such scholarly gatherings were wont to produce, for this was to be Lady Pole’s first appearance after her long illness and there was much speculation as to whether her ladyship’s equilibrium had been restored. It is not usual that a person makes a complete recovery from the effects of madness and comes to relate the experience for the benefit of Society.
As Lady Pole spoke to the gathering, Arabella took the time to study the faces of the audience. The conviction and passion in her ladyship’s words certainly caused a stir among the company, but they seemed disappointed by the lecture. They had come to see a lady who had attended a royal fairie court, after all. What could she relate about the fashions? What did the Fae think of the half-high bodice?
The next day at the breakfast table, Lady Pole’s displeasure could not be contained.
“The appalling frivolity of these silly creatures who think that being enslaved to dance at balls every night is a condition to be welcomed! How many will be foolish enough to summon fairies and offer themselves up for enchantment?”
“Perhaps we have been too long removed from London society,” Arabella rued. “Next to the decadence of Lost-hope, I had come to recall English society as a collection of sober and reflective personages. It is a disappointment to recognize the frivolousness that has always been part of it.”
“There must be some reform-minded persons on whom we can prevail,” Lady Pole insisted. “We mustn’t give up. There are more essays to publish, more lectures to give. Surely the Church will find common cause with us…”
Sir Walter gently cleared his throat.
“What is it?” her ladyship snapped.
“I am quite in agreement that reform is needed,” Sir Walter said. “But diverting our energies in every direction would surely make us ineffective in reaching our goals.”
Lady Pole was irritated at the interruption, but Sir Walter’s use of the plural personal pronoun made an impression and she consented to hear him.
“Magical reform seems one of those regrettable situations,” Sir Walter began, “in which the wisdom and good nature of men cannot be relied upon to ensure their own welfare. Like any other business, magic must be contained by laws to ensure that the powerful and greedy do not prey upon the helpless and meek.”
“It is easy enough to say,” said Lady Pole, “but what do you propose should be done about it?”
“It has been suggested by Lord Liverpool that the medieval courts for magical crimes should be revived. Now, no one has quite the idea how to begin setting up these courts, let alone find men qualified to adjudicate them, so the proposal has been passed from one minister to another. Perhaps it is time that I volunteered to draft the bill.”
“But what of the elections?” Lady Pole asked. “Surely you would not want to present a contentious bill so close to the dissolution of Parliament?
Sir Walter replied, “Justice demands that I do.”
Lady Pole’s expression softened at the simple statement of her husband’s.
Arabella fervently hoped this indicated a thaw in the coolness between the two. She would prove to be correct. In the weeks that followed, she had the pleasure of watching husband and wife become friends as they worked together to draft the Bill of Parliament.
April 10, 1818
Dear Mrs. Strange,
I hope this letter finds you, Sir Walter, and Lady Pole in the best of health. I am writing to share with you some wonderful news which may be of benefit to you and Lady Pole in your campaign to reform magic. I recently attended a sale of books from the library of the late Mr. Balcones, who was known for having one of the finest private collections of books about magic although he himself had little interest in the subject. Among his many books is a fine compendium of legal rulings from the Court of Cinq Dragownes, the magical court that prosecuted magical crimes during the age of the Aureate magicians.
You and Lady Pole are welcome to come to Starecross Hall to see the books and to stay for as long as you wish. Mrs. Lennox has long been eager to make your acquaintance and to see her ladyship again.
The school of magic that I have opened in the house has had some modest success. I have taken on four pupils who reside here and devote their time to the study of magic. I am taking care to instill in them a sense of responsibility for those persons who might come under their magical charge, but it would be a great assurance to me if you could visit the school and judge whether I have discharged my duty effectively.
I pray that this letter convinces you to honor us with your presence. I look forward to hearing from you.
May 16, 1818
My dearest Emma,
As much as it pains me to be separated from you, I think I was right to come to Starecross. Mr. Segundus has kindly shewn me the library that he is painstakingly compiling. There are several volumes on Magical Law that he recently acquired, and I have been reading these since my arrival.
Oh Emma! I have gained a new respect for those persons who take up the study of law as a profession, as these are the dullest and most tedious words that I have ever had cause to read. The driest book in Jonathan’s collection is now in my eyes a novel of the most sensational nature. I am no doubt hindered in my appreciation by my ignorance of the law, but Mr. Segundus and Mr. Berkley (a student of jurisprudence of Mrs. Lennox’ acquaintance) are taking great pains to explain things to me.
There are treasures of wisdom in these books. One text describes the circumstances that led to the creation and dissolution of the Cinq Dragownes. Perhaps it will be of use in developing a course of action for recreating the courts. The magical laws, of course, were never revoked and need only a judicial body to implement them.
I have selected a few volumes that Mr. Berkley agrees would be most helpful to you and Sir Walter in drafting your bill. Mr. Segundus has offered to send them to you post-haste, so you will likely receive them with this letter a mere two days after I have written it.
When I am not pretending to be a legal scholar, I am drawing solace from the comforts that Starecross Hall has to offer. I had expected to hate the isolation from the City, but I have excellent company to maintain my spirits. Mrs. Lennox, the owner of the property, is a most remarkable lady with a great deal of sense in business matters, and she has been recommending investments that I should make. Mr. Segundus daily impresses me with his honest and straightforward nature, and I think that we may become friends.
The hall itself – what can I say about it that you do not already know? I do not doubt that the peaceful qualities of this place were instrumental in your recovery. Mr. Segundus said that people of sensitive dispositions were agitated here, but I can only sense a homely familiarity that reminds me of my lost house in Soho-square. Perhaps it is the traces of magic in the air that remind me of my life with Jonathan.
Mr. Segundus has four pupils living here. I must tell you, Emma, at first I was resistant to the idea of teaching magic to persons so young but all seem thoughtful and responsible in their attitudes toward their subject. In this they reflect the principles of their master, who takes much care to listen and understand a circumstance rather than make haste to judge and act.
I must say, the only part of London that I miss is your company. Write to me soon and when you do, tell me how the bill is progressing. I am anxious to hear of its fate.
With greatest affection,
June 10, 1818
My dear Arabella,
What keeps you at Starecross for so long? I am beside myself with vexation. Poor Walter is running in circles to appease me but for all his kindness he cannot provide the solace that a sister can.
Surely you have heard by now that our Bill of Parliament did not pass. I place all blame squarely at the feet of the Whigs who have taken the new magicians to their bosom. There is a new Society of Magicians here in London who are viciously opposed to any interference in their wicked dealings.
There was some support for creating the magical courts, but the cowards balked at the notion of hanging as fit punishment for the crimes of scurrilous magicians. The leader of opposition went so far as to say that we should be content to levy a fine against them. A fine! As if a few guineas could atone for the suffering that we endured. Let us see Earl Grey be forced to gavotte every night without clamouring for the gallows!
Alas! There is no benefit in ruing our loss as we face a greater challenge. As you must have heard by now, Parliament was dissolved today and if Sir Walter is to present the bill again, we must ensure that he retains his seat. We are now devoting all our energies to winning the election.
I have abandoned my efforts to lecture some sense into the ton, as they find great entertainment in inviting any magician off the street to perform enchantments upon their persons. Lady Cowper is the proud owner of a ring that changes colour to indicate the rank of whomever she meets, and there is a brisk trade in penny-talismans that claim to reveal one as a minor Hungarian prince.
I will hold no blame upon you if you prefer to stay in Starecross far away from the ovine crowd. This house will be all madness until the election is concluded, and after that I may join you in Yorkshire. The books you have sent me have been most interesting and I wish to discuss them in detail with you and Mr. Segundus. Perhaps they will open a better path for the regulation of magic than the one I have been pursuing.
It grows late and I must bid you adieu. I will dispatch this letter in the morning. I send you my love and every sisterly feeling.
My dearest Arabella,
I have retrieved this letter from the post-bag to tell you of the strangest events that have taken place since last night. I retired to bed after completing my letter to you, and unlike most nights I fell asleep in moments. I dreamed that I was back in Lost-hope and I fully expected to feel the despair and revulsion that the abhorred house instilled in me, but the manse was utterly changed. It was as if a dedicated maid had scoured the house from roof to foundation, beat the carpets and polished the silver. One could almost smell the soap suds. And the great hall, the scene of our dreadful balls, was filled with sunlight. On the dais sat none other than our own Stephen! Stephen Black, as kind and regal as ever, and smiling as if a great burden were lifted from him. He raised a gloved hand, but just as I was about to speak to him the dream ended.
The next morning as we concluded breakfast, we had a visitor. A strange-looking man with curlicue eyebrows presented us a card bearing pictures of a raven and a gloved hand. He begged my pardon and said the Nameless King of Fair-hope sought an audience with me, but would only invite me to his realm if I so wished it.
I was speechless at the time, so Sir Walter questioned the messenger. He claims to be an ambassador for this Nameless King who has deposed the Wicked Fairy and become ruler in his stead. From what I understand, the Nameless King is none other than Stephen Black, who had not been heard from since we escaped our enchantments.
Sir Walter’s expression was worth beholding when he realized that his former butler was now the monarch of various fairy kingdoms. It was my amusement that broke through my shock and I told the ambassador that I would be delighted to meet with his Majesty at his convenience.
The post is now going out so I shall seal this letter. I promise to write when I learn more. For now I must attend to Sir Walter who is in need of a stiff drink.
. . . . .
“Lady Pole is a harridan who seeks nothing less than the destruction of English magic!” declared Henry Purfois. Half a dozen gentlemen around him raised their glasses and cried, “Hear! Hear!”
“I would hardly go so far,” said William Hadley-Bright. “I am more disappointed that Sir Walter Pole is so far gone that he can’t write a Bill of Parliament without a woman’s dictation.”
The room above the Three Staves had come to serve as a meeting place for the Society of London Magicians, where they gathered to complain about the persecutions they faced on all fronts as gentlemen-magicians.
“With a reputation like that,” said Purfois, “he will no doubt lose his seat in the election. Who has need for a Tory who needs his wife to draft his bills for him?”
“I dislike the bill as much as anyone,” said Tom Levy, “but there is merit in the argument that we need magical regulation. Our reputations are in jeopardy when any tinker on the street can call himself a sorcerer and peddle trinkets to fools.”
The argument continued with a general agreement that some laws should be implemented by which only gentlemen of good character should be permitted to call themselves magicians. There was also a strong sentiment that Lady Pole should be kept as far away from the practice of law-making as possible.
The discussion grew until it reached the ears of Lord Portishead who proposed that a Congress of Magicians be held to gather recommendations.
. . . . .
Lady Pole took care to place the visiting card bearing the raven and glove on a table in her bedchamber when she retired for the evening. After an indeterminate amount of time had passed, she heard the clear ringing of bells – frighteningly familiar, but with a less melancholy timbre than she remembered. She summoned her courage and followed the sound to her front door, opening it to reveal the Nameless King standing upon the doorstep of her house.
“Stephen!” she greeted him warmly, “It is so wonderful to see you again.”
The king bowed. “It is a privilege to see you hale and happy,” he replied. “There is much that I wish to discuss with you. Would you consent to spend a few hours in Fair-hope? I know you have no good memories of the place, but perhaps it would help to see the changes that have come about since you last saw it.”
Lady Pole looked over the king’s shoulder and found that Harley-street was quite missing, and in its place was a lush country garden with a path that wound its way to a familiar-looking house. Familiar in what way, she could not be sure, as its styling was vastly different from the crumbling ruin in which she had been entrapped. Rather, it was a Palladian manor with regular windows and a welcoming façade.
Her ladyship took a deep breath. “Nothing would please me more,” she said to the king, “than to see the improvements you have made upon this place.” They both smiled and she took his proffered arm.
They were silent as they strolled through the moonlit garden - she recalling the bone yard that once lay where the delphiniums now grew, he studying her expression as if it gauged the success of the changes he’d wrought.
When they reached the house, Lady Pole paused at the door.
The king smiled kindly. “I understand your hesitation. But I give you my word, as one prisoner to another, that you may come and go from here as you please.”
Lady Pole replied, “I have every reason to trust you. It is simply that habits of mind are difficult to break. Let us enter. I wish to see this place as a free woman.”
The king opened the door and they entered a vast hall that she recognized only by its dimensions and the placement of its windows. Everything else was changed. The ceiling was higher and the windows broader. There was a perfusion of golden light that made it appear as if it were day. There were few people in the hall compared to the days it was packed with dancers, but those few were simply attired and diligently at work. Some she recognized as servants of her former captor, but their expressions of tired hauteur were replaced by earnest concentration. A few chanced to look up as she passed and smiled.
She said to the king, “Tell me what it is like to be free.”
The king thought for a few moments before replying, “When I speak of my freedom, you must understand that I won it twice over in one day. Once when the enchantment broke and I escaped the gentleman, and once when I became king and escaped my bonds as a slave in England.”
“Oh Stephen!” cried Lady Pole. “Did you really think of yourself as a slave? I know Sir Walter respected you far more than that, and if you wished to leave his employ he would have honored your wishes.”
“Sir Walter was the kindest employer I could have wished for, but one man’s high principles cannot mould the world around him. In the eyes of most Englishmen, my black skin marks me as little more than a menial who has been elevated beyond his proper station. Had I left Sir Walter’s service, I would no longer have had the protections his own position afforded me and be vulnerable to persecutions that a white man would not have to think about.”
Lady Pole answered, “Forgive me Stephen. I did not think of the cares you had to face. I could only be envious that despite your own entrapment, you were able to move freely about London.”
The king admitted, “I was envious that you could rest after your nightly misadventures without fear of losing your position.”
“It felt less like rest and more like another prison,” she said. “The physicians blamed all my ills on my feminine delicacy, as if womanliness itself were a malady. I was confined within my house and hidden away from anyone who could have recognized my true condition.”
“It appears that we were both imprisoned by our circumstances,” the king mused.
“Sometimes I think that there are not as many Englishmen free-born as there are in bondage,” said Lady Pole. “Now the same men who hold our bonds are demanding that they be allowed to dabble in magic without consequence. Soon they will be summoning armies of fairies to subjugate us.”
They strolled through the hallways where the Gentleman with Thistledown Hair would hold processions for hours upon end, not pausing for a moment even if a shoe broke or an ankle twisted. Now the halls were empty and quiet. A faint scent of lemon and silver polish lingered in the air.
“Did you know,” asked the king, “that most Fae are fearful that a magician might summon them and bind them to his will? In the old days, a magician did not always ask kindly for a fairy’s favour. Now that the gates have opened again, my new subjects want assurance that they will not be molested by Englishmen.”
Lady Pole sighed. “If I could will it so, there would be no magic in England. Men such as these are only likely to misuse it.”
“Perhaps,” said the king, “one could ask another question: Why should magic be restricted to those who would put it to ill-use? If every Englishman, or Englishwoman, who wished it could be a magician, it would no longer be an instrument of the mighty.”
Lady Pole considered that. “There is merit in what you say,” she said. “I think I could tolerate magic being done around me if I could be certain of my own protection. That said, there will still be those who are disinclined to study magic or lack the talent for its practice. Surely they must be protected as well.”
“You have been pursuing the reestablishment of the Court of Cinq Dragownes,” the king said. “I think that would be the wisest course of action."
“Sadly it is a venture that has met the displeasure of most magicians.”
“Perhaps they will be amenable to persuasion,” said the king. “Would you do me the honor of conveying a message to the magicians of England on my behalf?”
“It would be my pleasure,” Lady Pole replied.
When Lord Portishead recommended that the First Congress of English Magicians be held in York, he hoped that its provenance would lend a historical significance to any resolutions made on the occasion. Little did he realize that the day would be remembered for one of the most significant events in magical history since the departure of the Raven King.
Invitations were sent out to every respectable magician in the country. This led to a situation where the discussions inside the assembly rooms could not be heard above the agitation from the somewhat less respectable magicians outside: a panoply of tradesmen and vagrants unexpectedly joining forces with ladies of all ilks.
“It is evident from all accounts,” Dr. Foxcastle said, straining to project his voice above the rumble of the crowd, “that all blame in the unfortunate case of Lady Pole’s abduction falls upon the malicious fairy that woefully misled the good-hearted Mr. Norrell…”
A snort was heard from a shadowed part of the hall, which Dr. Foxcastle chose to ignore.
“…and entrapped him in a nefarious plot when all he wished was to restore happiness to his aggrieved friends.”
The audience on the right side of the hall heartily concurred.
“It is therefore unjust,” continued Dr. Foxcastle, “that the government punish the great society of magicians when the fairy gads about freely. The Cinq Dragownes was a noble institution in the hands of the Raven King, but who can we trust today to understand and properly judge a magician’s purpose and method? Will Parliament provide an overseer? Will the King appoint a judge?”
A rousing chorus of “Nays” filled the room, until it died away in the face of a louder voice coming from outside. Some of the attendees seated close to the window were craning their necks to see the commotion.
“Who are they to judge you unfit to be magicians,” Lady Pole was saying to the crowd, “when God Himself has seen fit to give you your talents?”
The crowd responded that they were no good judges at all.
“Then let us be heard,” she continued. ““We demand that any resolutions made at this Congress reflect the concerns of all practicing magicians, and not merely those who received a private invitation.”
Many of the gentlemen in the room nearly swooned at the sight of a lady of gentle birth rousing a miscellaneous rabble such as this. But one attendee, no gentleman he, was utterly unsurprised. He himself would not have been invited to this august gathering had he not in his keeping the Book of Magic written by the Raven King himself.
John Childermass stood up. “Her ladyship makes an excellent point,” he said with obvious amusement. “If God and King are willing to call them magicians, then by all rights they should be welcomed into this meeting.”
Dr. Foxcastle was most displeased by this notion. “I do not appreciate your impertinence, sir! And the notion of letting a miscellaneous rabble such as that into the York Assembly Rooms is out of the question.”
“Then the Congress of English Magicians must take place where the magicians are. Come, Vinculus!” he added as he swept from the room. The King’s Book of Magic grinned and trotted after him.
By now, no one in the hall was heeding the speaker at the dais. Instead they were crowded at the window to watch the proceedings taking place in the street.
Childermass emerged from the Assembly Rooms and fought his way through the crowd to where Lady Pole stood with Mrs. Strange and Mr. Segundus. He interrupted her for a brief conference.
Lady Pole nodded and addressed the crowd again.
“As Mr. Childermass has kindly pointed out, there are more English magicians gathered here in Blake-street than in the grand halls inside. Then let us have our own Congress here, and let history shew whose resolutions are binding.”
The throng roared its approval .
Lady Pole spoke again to the crowd, “I shall open the floor to any who wish to speak on the direction that English magic must take in the future. But first I must convey a message that has been vouchsafed to me for all of England. I speak on behalf of the Nameless King, ruler of many kingdoms in the Other Lands, appointed Protector of the Gates between England and Fairie by the Grace of none other than the Raven King himself.”
The excitement of the crowd took a full five minutes to subside.
“The King says this: We have a love for England of a kind that can only be kindled in the hearts of those who gaze upon her from her margins. We see her dignity and fortitude, but we also see her pride and her parsimony. England has bountiful treasures, but she parcels them out by degrees. The protections she grants to her most favoured sons are oft withheld from her daughters and less fortunate sons.
“Magic has made its return to England and it is a gift to all. It shall not be sequestered in the hands of the mighty. Any person with ability shall be known as a magician, regardless of the tenderness of her sex, the hue of his skin, or the station of his birth.
“Let it be understood that the ability to do magic does not free one from the bonds of fellow-feeling, that as it is criminal to injure a fellow man by hand or in business, so it is to injure one by the practice of magic. We therefore offer our whole-hearted support to the reestablishment of the Court of Cinq Dragownes. We also understand the legitimate concern that an Englishman may be entrapped by the machinations of a malcontent fairy. There is a similar fear among the folk of Fairie that they may be bound against their will by a magician. For protection of all parties, we are reestablishing the Court of Folflures.
“In our endeavour to protect the bodies and souls of all who are impacted by magic, we seek the support and agreement of the magicians of England. In return, we authorize our Fae subjects to offer their aid in magic for any purpose that is legal. Let this be known as the Treaty of Blake-street, and with the agreement of English magicians and the ratification of the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, let it stand as a guardian to protect our lands from this day forth. May God grant us wisdom and have mercy on our souls.”
The long silence that followed this speech was broken by a sudden outburst.
“Calumny!” someone cried out from an upper window of the Assembly Rooms. It was Dr. Foxcastle, himself, half-way out of the window in his agitation. “You slander the name of the Raven King, Madam, in your haste to steal the glory of English magic from its standard-bearers.”
“Is there any cause to be surprised?” asked a disembodied voice behind him. “Lady Pole is a known enemy of magic who wishes for nothing less than its dissolution!”
“Now that, Sir, is slander,” cried Arabella. “Her ladyship wishes only to preserve the better parts of magic so that it may benefit us all.”
“And what benefit will magic provide to females and blackguards?” demanded Dr. Foxcastle. “It is far too noble an endeavor to be squandered looking for lost thimbles and cheating at cards.”
“I beg you, sir!” Lord Portishead interjected in horror. “Please contain yourself. You are addressing a lady!”
Before Dr. Foxcastle could respond Mr. Honeyfoot stuck his head out of an adjacent window. “I personally am most intrigued by the suggestion made today. There is no doubt that magic has lately begun to take on a most indelicate character. I think that the natural sweetness of ladies will provide a necessary temperance to the practice. Perhaps the Nameless King is right.”
“Honeyfoot! Do not permit yourself to be taken in by this false prattle. There is no evidence that this Nameless King exists, let alone is appointed to various posts by the Raven King. If Lady Pole expects us to take her seriously, let her provide proof!”
At that moment, the mid-morning sun plunged into night as a mighty flock of ravens, a thousand-thousand strong, flew across the sky. The thunder of their wings was loud enough to drown out even Dr. Foxcastle’s admonishments. Dappled shadows streaked over the crowd whose upturned faces displayed every manner of shock.
Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the ravens cleared the air. The only marks of their passage were a few hundred feathers drifting toward the ground.
For a few minutes, Blake-street was wrapped in a rare contemplative silence. Of all the magicians gathered in York that day, some were in tears at a sign they had waited their entire lives to see. Others were forced to examine their deepest held beliefs in a new light. None were left unmoved.
Childermass broke the silence with a bemused observation, “I believe John Uskglass has spoken.”
Lady Pole took a deep breath to steady her voice and said, “All in favor of the treaty with the Nameless King, say ‘aye’.”
The Treaty of Blake-street passed on the 14th day of August in 1818.The Court of Cinq Dragownes was opened the next year in London, as was Folflures in Fair-hope.
Sir Walter lost his seat in the general election of 1818, but he won it back by a great margin in 1820.
Lady Pole delivered a successful series of lectures on magical ethics in 1821 and continued to have an influence on the shaping of magical law.
Arabella Strange established herself in Starecross Hall, which accepted its first female pupil in 1824. In her later years, when more girls began to attend, Mrs. Strange became headmistress of the girls’ section of the school.
John Segundus continued as headmaster of the school at Starecross Hall. He developed a close friendship with Mrs. Strange and with her help published The Life of Jonathan Strange in 1820 and Letters and Miscellaneous Papers of Jonathan Strange in 1824.
John Childermass and Vinculus inspired two of the most popular pantomime characters of the 19th century: the Cross Magician and the Wayward Book.
Jonathan Strange returned to England only once during his wife’s lifetime. The exact date has never been made public, nor what passed between them. Their marriage was never dissolved, which perhaps explains why Mr. Segundus remained a life-long bachelor.
Mr. Norrell did not contact anyone.
King George died January 1820 after a last decline into madness, although visitors to Fair-hope reported seeing a gentleman of very similar appearance in the Nameless King’s court. As he seemed most happily situated there, no one was inclined to make a fuss about it.
The Nameless King never took a name.