It was the 27th of December 1550. The weather seemed to have all the characteristics uncharacteristic of an English winter. It had been raining all night long, the rainfall incessant and the wet streets showed only those few people who either did not have a home to go to or had to work for a full day’s meal. The dark clouds seemed to have developed an uncanny relationship with the winter sky and along with it brought the cool spine-chilling breeze that gave the skin even under the most woollen of overcoats, a shiver. It felt like the windy day was the result of some angry monster or a frost giant which continuously ejected snowballs from its mouth with huge force. The result could be seen on the streets that were filled with snow, a couple of feet thick.
Amidst such a chilly, windy night the famous magician Sir Edward Davies paced up and down his living room, clearly agitated, perturbed. Sometimes he would sit down on his easy-chair, take a gulp of Scotch whisky, and look on. But no matter how much he tried to ignore it, his eyes couldn’t help but throw a narrow glance at the gift on the table which he had received a few weeks before at a show. There was something in it, something Sir Edward could not express, and something which diverted his mind every time he thought about it.”
“Before I proceed further with the story, I must tell you something about Sir Edward. He was born in 1496 to a carpenter’s family based in a small village in the county of Yorkshire. It was due to his family’s weak financial condition that he had a very ordinary, may be semi-ordinary upbringing. But that proved to be a blessing in disguise for him. Since he was five, he started making toys out of rejected wooden pieces. Sometimes, he would simply design a stick from a wooden block and try to balance it on his finger. It is said that during that time he once attended a magic show held on the occasion of Christmas in the village and was left fascinated by the tricks and craftsmanship of the magician. He had asked his father then’ Daddy, can I become a magician’. His father as well as the others in his family had only thought of that question as a child’s fantasy, his whims. But they had clearly misjudged the strong will, the deep desire within the child that had made him ask so. As days passed by, and the little boy grew up, everyone realized that Edward’s father was perhaps the last carpenter in their family.”
“He used to spend most of his time in the little park just opposite his residence and in a matter of a few years, most of the children in the locality had known of his magic tricks. He had displayed with a great satisfaction the tricks with the egg, cards and coins and at the end of his displays, when he saw the amazed, dumfounded faces of his spectators, he bore a smile which clearly reflected the deep satisfaction within. As days passed along and years rolled by, he grew more adept at his displays which seemed flawless and with it he had developed within himself the smile, the mind reading sharp eyes, perfected the art and soaked into himself the craftsmanship befitting a professional magician.
During this time, the village as well as the county shows during Christmas had to have an Edward magic performance. Then in the year 1516, when he was twenty, Edward wanted to fulfil his long cherished dream, earn a living being part of the big league and so he moved to London. He rented a small apartment for himself; to be honest the apartment had only a single room that was made for living purposes while the rest of the rooms on the other storeys were owned by a glass company. Edward struggled a lot during this time. He did not have any acquaintance in that big a city and neither did he know anybody related to his field. But he kept on sharpening his skills, his reactions, and tried out various other things which he hadn’t in Yorkshire.
He enrolled himself as a worker in the glass company and slowly settled into his new life in the cosmopolitan city embracing the London air. But it was his destiny to step into the big league. They all say that true talents don’t go unnoticed and that was proved again with Edward. He got a break with a ten minute performance in a small theatre in Chelsea and got rave reviews of his performance, even the theatre owners and event managers booked dates with him for further shows. Gradually those ten minute performances were bettered with fifteen and sometimes even half an hour’s show and Edward slowly and steadily inched towards what he was there for or may be what he was destined to achieve. He added various wings to his performances. He tried out ventriloquism by making a doll for himself. He named it Colin.
It was in the summer of 1522, that he got his long awaited big break, as they say. An entire evening showcasing him and only his talents in one of the largest theaters in London. Edward had mesmerized his viewers with never before seen magic tricks. There was no looking back for him. For the next 25 years, he did it all. He performed all over the country, from Manchester to Liverpool, Nottingham to Blackpool, people everywhere gave their works a little miss to catch a glimpse of the mesmerising Edward sometimes cutting himself up into half and then reappearing in one piece or coming out of a 10 feet deep water tank with hands tied. He hired a manager who kept a record of his busy schedule. The next 25 years saw Edward evolve into one of the finest magicians England had ever seen. Quite deservedly he received his knighthood from the Queen in 1547 when he was only fifty one.”
“But every legend suffers from a bad patch, sometimes which marks his downfall. The same happened with Sir Edward. The tricks which he performed in the later years of his career were marked by audiences as “repetitive”. Soon, they started terming them “boring”. Newspapers and magazines which talked of Edward, the celebrity magician wrote reports wherein people claimed his tricks to be old fashioned. There were columns titled “is this the end of the legacy?’. Statistics claimed that it were the children who still remained his dedicated fans. The dark phases of his career were marked by half filled theatres with disinterested people. Edward had just not improvised and experimented. It was after the completion of one such show, when a dejected Sir Edward was about to leave the theatre, that a child came up to him and said
“Sir Edward, this is for you.”
Edward was not accustomed to this warm behaviour from his fans off late and remembered the bright years of his career and although he was dejected, received the gift warmly. On reaching his lavish apartment, he looked at it and reflected all that he had done these years. The rows of mullioned windows, protruding bays, ornate chimneys, the chandeliers and the elaborate decorations around the doorway have all been proof of his work, better still, they were all results of his hard work. But, it takes only days for people to defame him.”
“ On that night, Sir Edward unwrapped the beautifully arranged gift pack which had his name written in a decorated background and opened the cardboard box. He was quite taken aback, more surprised to see that it had in it a mask, a pitch black mask made of wool displaying a very grotesque face of a ghost. The sudden appearance of that mask mixed with the rumbling of thunder had created an effect within Sir Edward. He almost fell down and had to get a firm hold of the table to regain balance. He impulsively threw the mask in his table, as if to ignore it and paced up and down the living room, agitated, perturbed.
But, no matter how much he tried to forget about it, he couldn’t help but think of why the kid had the choice of such a weird gift for him. As the drops of rain accompanied with thunder kept hitting on his costly window panes, he kept on thinking about what the kid wanted him to make out of his gift. The flashes of lightning and the light of the fire burning the fireplace had mixed themselves and had cast a strange reflection, a strange atmosphere around, as if an illusion had been created by nature, by situations , by life itself for its greatest magician, who had only mesmerised people by creating his own illusion filled world for the last thirty years. Strangely enough, the reflections seemed to have driven and forced out the darkness of Sir Edward’s face, and perhaps of his personality.”
“ I have told much of the story of Sir Edward without revealing how it is that I know so much of him. I was a rival magician but was not at all popular among people. Unlike Edward, I liked to experiment, to improvise. I always seek something new but my methods were not correct, for they were dark, they risked the lives of many to gain fame. I even asked Sir Edward to adopt my methods, to improvise, to again show the people what they had never seen before. I lured him with the prospect of getting to perform in packed houses with eight to eighty watching you. But the “good old Edward” would not listen. It is said that a few days after he got his gift, he left his house. Nobody knew where he went, to whom he went back to. Some thought he was dead in an accident, at least the newspapers said so., but nobody had found his dead body. With each passing day, people started pushing him in the “less important” sections of their memory and slowly forgot about him. Magicians get replaced in the theatres. Sir Edward Davies was never seen again in London.”
With these words Mr.Colin stopped his story. He was seated in his small house in Gloucestershire on a chair by the fireplace surrounded by kids who found great enthusiasm in Mr Colin’s tales.
One of them asked “ Does no one know where Sir Edward went, or where he lives?”
He replied “ No, my dear. Nobody had known since but I will personally inform you when someone does”.
Mr Colin was loved and admired by the local kids for his subtle sense of wit. The children went away for their story time was over for the day. But Mr Colin did not move from his chair. The light of the fire in the fireplace had cast a realm of yellow on his face. He looked on at the fire without a single blink. It was the summer of 1560 now, 10 long years have passed since he had last taken the London air into his lungs. Ten long years have led to the growth of his hairs, which have all turned white, his fully white beard which made him look just like the next door grandpa fit for storytelling, a perfect disguise for someone who had a deep seated desire to improvise. Alone.
He was seated in his dressing gown thinking about all those nights that he spent reading on human psychologies and black magic. He thought about rejecting the lavish life of posh London willingly and still not feeling a bit of regret for it. It was sacrifice. For all these years after his virtual retirement, not a day has passed when he did not think what he was doing was correct or not, but the urge of being the best haunted him, made him adopt darker ways. He transferred his gaze to the table where lied the source of his inspiration, the thing that made him learn fear, death and all that is dark and put it in effect in magic, it was that grotesque mask, his gift. Today he was ready to show the world how people can be back from the dead, how their intelligent faces turn into grotesque ones, just like the mask, once they die.
Ten long years, not a moment had passed when he stopped thinking of himself as that man who created illusions, those mind reading eyes cast a gaze that is more piercing, much intense and colder. Even in his name he had relived the past. Colin, the doll he made to speak his words while in London. And the story of the rival magician?? It was just his alter ego, his dark side to which he had succumbed finally. Today however that I needs to be changed. He stood in front of the mirror and after a long time uttered” I am Sir Edward Davies, born 1416, died 1550 and reborn in 1560…….