Artist Pamela Colman Smith, befriended by Bram Stoker and commissioned to create a new deck of tarot cards, battles to keep her creations from being perverted for evil purposes.
Fantasy Historical Fiction
||New York, New York
||14 publishers interested
My family’s last name is Wands. My Grandmother, Goldie Wands, was interested in the occult, Ouija board and ghost stories. My twin sister, Cynthia, and I grew up telling one another stories, writing plays and exploring our interest in the ‘other side’. I began to study the Rider Waite deck in high school and learned the story of Pamela Colman Smith, the unattributed artist who drew the deck. I became obsessed with her life, writing first a play based on her first two tarot deck cards, Magician and Fool. I was a young woman in New York City having brunch at Nadine’s restaurant, when a tarot reader came to my table, read my cards and told me I was to have a future in tarot, not just reading cards but in the story of creation of Pamela's card.
In Magician and Fool, Pamela Colman Smith starts her career as an artist in the Edwardian world of the Lyceum Theatre, where she grows from innocent empath to seer and channeler; creating her now world-famous deck of tarot cards. Introduced to the cult The Golden Dawn by Bram Stoker, the second in command at the Lyceum Theatre, she is commissioned to create flash-card type medium for the members to use in their quest for magic.
Pamela creates the Fool and Magician card and realizes they are manifested from real life people and these transformations, once completed can lead to worldwide dominance. Her celebrity surrogate father, the actor/manager Sir Henry Irving, becomes the role model for her ‘Magician’ tarot card. William Terriss, the matinee idol of the day, becomes the ‘Fool’ role model, but both men are endowed with the gifts and markings of each card’s aspects.
Pamela learns that the Golden Dawn’s most evil member, Aleister Crowley, becomes obsessed with unlocking the mysteries of the Tarot. His obsession peaks when he sees the power of her deck; realizing he can create a rival deck, he attempts to manifest magical power to harm each of Pamela’s incarnates of her cards. Each card’s human incarnation has a special gift, for example, lightning, levitation, paralysis, etc, that will aid that person in completing the directive that each card instructs. The race is on for Pamela to complete her tarot deck before Aleister uses The Golden Dawn’s resources to create his own evil deck.
Pamela learns the tale of Nera who will become the model for her Fool in her tarot deck from Maud Gonne. Pamela finds her first magical ability is being able to float in the air.
William Terris returns from his latest adventure, trying to raise race horses in America to joins Henry Irving’s theatre company. Henry is in love with his leading lady, Ellen Terry, but keeps his feelings to himself. Coming out a pub after a storm one evening, a wand falls out of the sky at Henry’s feet.
Dr. Felkin, A.E. Waite and Samuel Mathers practice magic in Felkin’s coroners office, injuring themselves and manifesting different invocations and discovering a cipher.
Aleister loses his father, the only person who ever loved him, and goes to the notoriously tyrannical Bethren School where after being abused, he vows to follow his own God.
Pamela visits the Paint Room at Covent Garden where has her magic helps her paint a Lyceum set canvas with hidden icons; Bram Stoker recognizes her as a gifted empath. Bram escorts Pamela and her family to the Waterloo Bridge, where she falls off the bridge and is rescued by William Terriss, matinee idol.
Felkin and Golden Dawn members enlist Woodman and Ahmed Kamal, an Egyptian scholar of Egyptology at the British Museum, to interpret the cipher from their magic invocations. Kamal discovers a prophecy which the Golden Dawn tries to keep as their tenant. Felkin kills Woodman to keep control of the Golden Dawn.
Pamela and her mother attend the production of the The Corsican Brothers and are recruited to perform in a dance scene. A giant mirror is sabotaged and falls on stage almost killing Henry but Terriss saves him. An ominous note is left in a cup citing Dedi, the first magician, threatening Henry.
The Golden Dawn men go with Henry to ask Ahmed Kamal to interpret the note referencing Dedi. Kamal asks for help in tracking a papyrus in Berlin in exchange for interpreting the threat.
In Jamaica, Pamela’s mother dies and her Nana teaches her to believe in her magic after they meet a duppie, a local incarnation of a witch. She is gifted with a spirit animal, an alligator, who she calls Albert.
Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker are en route to John Singer Sargent for her portrait as Lady Macbeth when Henry Irving arranges to meet Ellen privately to pledge his love to her. Afterwards, a witch accosts Ellen and foretells a second daughter needing strength.
Aleister visits his Mother and Uncle in London and has sex with Martha, the kitchen maid. After being rejected by his family, he strikes out on his own.
Motherless and visiting relatives in Brooklyn, Pamela learns to use her magic to get into the Pratt Institute of Art.
The Golden Dawn chiefs establish a meetinghouse for their magic group and get approval from Fraulein Sprengel to start their chapter of the Golden Dawn.
With Bram Stoker’s help, Pamela auditions for Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre tour. Ellen becomes her surrogate mother, Henry Irving, her father. She meets Edy Craig who will become her best friend. Her magic helps her find Henry’s sword from the The Corsican Brothers.
Alesiter meets Waite and tries to get him to recommend his entry into the Golden Dawn. After his refusal, he begins to practice black magic in his London flat with Alan Bennett, another Golden Dawn member.
Pamela and Edy working at the Lyceum Theatre meet Satish, a leading actor from the West Indies, who gives Pamela a star pendent. She discovers the sword, cup, and wand in Henry’s changing room and intuitively leaves the star to complete the Magician’s tools. While drawing Egyptian symbols, Bram Stoker sees her artwork and recognizes her gifts for the Golden Dawn.
Aleister is on the hunt for sexual congress and wealthy patrons at Ada Leverson’s soiree where she agrees to fund the Golden Dawn for a year. Aleister is outraged when Pamela is awarded the tarot card commission and he uses his black magic to paralyze her but the Golden Dawn Chiefs intercede.
As a Golden Dawn patron, Annie Horniman discovers that the mixing of the sexes is creating havoc. Aleister starts his lessons with Florence for the Golden Dawn Level One determined to be using The Vault to practice the magic he’s learned from Bennett.
Aleister uses the technique from Alan Bennett and the Golden Dawn to conjure up Anwass, the Egyptian deity who will possess him.
While entertaining the Bohemians, Pamela realizes while she is outcast from High Society, her magic includes her as a member of the Golden Dawn. She introduces William Butler Yeats to Maude Gonne realizing they will become the Lovers of her tarot world.
Pamela creates the Fool card as the first tarot card in what will be the deck of cards per Waite’s directions. With help from Ahmed Kamal and inspiration from the Sola-Busca tarot deck, Pamela begins to put magical icons in her cards.
Pamela imbues a newly designed stage crown with magic, a goodbye present for Henry Irving to use as she leaves the Lyceum Theatre. She meets William Terriss, the incarnate of her Fool card. Symbols in a set canvas that she painted come to life to show her that Terriss is to be her Fool incarnate.
Confronted by the Golden Dawn group over his sexual predatory nature, Aleister shows his fury that Pamela is channeling the tarot cards, the stepping stones to the Golden Dawn’s power. He manages to get into the Vault and transforms into the Devil, terrifying them all, threatening to destroy Pamela and her work.
Recovering from Aleister’s transformation into the Devil, the Golden Dawn reconvene’s at Ada Leverson’s. On her way out to stay at Ellen’s, Pamela has a vision involving Waite and the power of her name.
Pamela, assisted by Ahmed Kamal, creates the magic for the Fool card for William Terriss. Aleister tries to send magic to kill him but her initials appear as a magical talisman and save him with the help of the Magician, Henry Irving. Pamela’s first two tarot cards are now alive as incarnates in William Terriss, the Fool and Henry Irving, the Magician.
There have been 30 paid ad campaigns on Facebook starting in 2012 to nurture an audience for Magician and Fool, The Series. A total of 963,686 have been reached by the campaigns which targeted men and women, ages 18-65+, who live in 4 locations: United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. The age breakdown of viewers: 26.14% in the 18-34+ age group, 44.14% in the 35-54+ age group and 29.72% in the 54-65+ age group.
The keys words for campaign have been: magic, occult, theatre, supernatural, tarot, Pamela Colman Smith and the Golden Dawn.
Recent news articles emphasize the popularity of magic and supernatural in shows like Stranger Things, Game of Thrones and Westworld.
An original member of The Red Room collective, Susan wrote more than sixty pieces for presentation at their theatre space on 42nd street. Magician and Fool was first developed as a play and has evolved into a book series, exploring Pamela Colman Smith's life and her creation of her world famous tarot cards. The world of Victorian theatre, the Golden Dawn, tarot, magic and Pamela's international travels have been a source of study and inspiration. Susan has been granted exclusive rights to Pamela's tarot artwork by U.S. Games Systems, Inc., the publisher and distributer of the Rider Waite tarot deck. The second book in the series, detailing the next cards in the tarot deck, The High Priestess and Empress, is near completion.
Susan also co-author of Seven Stories, an evening of one acts written with Mary Mary, presented in New York City at the Lubin House. She has also written Lady Under Parasol, for the Oregon Shakespeare New Play Festival, The Carriage Proposal, a one act based on Jane Austen's early works, and an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, presented at Cornish Institute in Seattle, Washington. She has written and directed four independent films: Marry Me, Crescent, More Stately Mansion in Edinburgh, and Exquisite Hour.
- The website Magician and Fool will post links to order book, tie-ins with the tarot and occult community and provide a hub for updates. http://www.magicianandfool.com...
- Susan Wands' LinkedIn account will update the progression of the book and appearances.
- Pinterest account of Magician&Fool will continue to reach out with connections to the occult, tarot, theatrical and historical links.
- Twitter account: Magician&Fool will tweet historical or current people in the news who bear a likeness to tarot images. For instance, images of The Fool will be paired with Charlie Chaplin or Aziz Ansari, The Magician paired with David Blaine or Houdini and the Empress paired with Beyonce or Catherine The Great.
- Instagram account: magicianandfool
- Facebook page: The 'Magician and Fool, the Series', Facebook page has been active for four years, with visitors over 650k in 2016. Facebook ads run at least once a month with current personalities and historical celebrity slide shows. Here are some of the Facebook communities following the page:
Collect Tarot and Books
The Tarot Guild
Tarot Foundation Open Reading Group - Tarot Tarot Tarot
TABI – Tarot Association of the British Isles
Collect Tarot and Books
Curso de Rider-Waite
Secrets of Waite-Smith Tarot
“Pixie” Pamela Colman Smith
Tarot & Oracle Cards, Books Reviews Learning & Readings (Divyatattva.in)
The Tarot Readers Development and Study Group
Tarot Etcetera by David
Tarot Creator’s Forum
Tarot by Naomi
Pamela Colman Smith – Herstory of Art Pamela Colman Smith - Artist
Historical Novel Society - Manuscript Group
Historical Novel Society - Upstate New York Chapter
Historical Fiction Indie Authors
Folk Horror Revival
Scottish Cunning Ways
Women in Film, Media and the Arts
Wild Woman Moon Circle - Brooklyn
The Magicians by Lev Grossman – Upon graduation, Quentin and his friends discover a secret that starts them on a modern day journey of learning magic, but it turns out not to be the sort they thought they would be practicing. The skill set for this magic goes beyond waving magic wands; they must learn many old-world languages and procedures. The result is a dangerous magic, not without cost. One character observes that this magic might be tools casually left behind after the universe was created; bringing up the age-old question of where does magic come from? Published by Viking Press, 2009
The Magicians vrs. Magician and Fool - Quentin’s search for magic to bring him acceptance from the girl he loves, is a different motivation from Pamela; she is bringing magic to life in her cards to enable those she loves. Pamela’s magic begins with her childhood spent in Jamaica, grows through her synethesia in her artwork, and results in the channeling of magic through her tarot cards. The tarot cards all have special traits and the models for the cards become enhanced by the magic of tarot. Her friends have their differing points of view, but unlike the modern Magicians, they are in the process of proving themselves in the Edwardian world without a privileged background to assist them. Like The Magicians, the magic is difficult, unwieldy and doesn’t always produce the desired effect. Unlike Quentin, however, Pamela is a more likeable protagonist; she comes from a diverse, exotic background without any family to support her. A young woman trying to negotiate power and privilege in Edwardian London contrasts with Quentin’s contemporary wealth and entitlement.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: - England in 1806 is a generation of non-believers in magic – until Mr. Norrell performs a grand magic trick in front of others and becomes the star magician of the time. A Jane Austen type of class system with echoes of her clever dialogue throughout the book, the upper classes begin clamoring for more and more magic. The finicky and particular Mr. Norrell is quickly drawn into competition with his student, the handsome Mr. Strange and they eventually partner together. They begin to conjure deeds of magic for the navy in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars and encounter an Irish Raven King, who blackmails Norrell over promises of magical access. The black arts of magic in England are revived as the two opposites, Norrell and Strange, clash over the dangerous and secretive forms of magic. Published by Bloomsbury, 2004
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell vrs. Magician and Fool - The story of magic in England and as part of a hidden culture has a similar tone to the underpinnings of magic everywhere in the Edwardian Magician and Fool. In the Regency Era of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the two protagonists learn hidden magic and practice it in front of large groups of people for military maneuvers; whereas Pamela’s magic is practiced by The Golden Dawn behind closed doors; her magic is manifest as a battle between Alestier Crowley and her tarot card incarnates, not for the goals of the British navy.
Game of Thrones by George Martin – A Feast of Crows, by George Martin – The series is a saga of seven kingdoms, conquered by one another throughout the centuries. Magic is revealed in the alliances between human crows, sorcerers, witches, and White Walkers, as they battle one another for domination. Magic is earned as a skill or bequeathed as a birth right; often times discovered during the conflicts between those who wish to conquer and those who would die resisting. Published by Bantam Spectra, 1996
Game Of Thrones vrs. Magician and Fool - Magic used as warfare is predominant in both books, but the divided kingdom of England doesn’t reveal itself in Magician and Fool, until the international conflict comes to life in the second book, High Priestess and Empress. Game of Thrones builds up to a lot of violence and gore for thousands; Magician and Fool uses more of a ‘one of’ violent act for someone when they cross Aleister. Where the seven kingdoms in Game Of Thrones in conflict to battle one another for the crown; Magician and Fool, depicts a unified England conflicted with the occupied nation of Egypt. Through the skills of Egyptologist Ahmed Kamal, Pamela learns Egyptian magic while he tries to save his countries magical, stolen treasures.
Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer- Twilight, the young adult series following vampires, features seventeen-year-old Isabella "Bella" Swan. Bella learns how to protect herself from the 'mental harm' from the other vampires. Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2005 -2008
Twilight Series vrs. Magician and Fool - Both Bella and Pamela are born with special empathetic gifts and learn to confront their mortal enemies. Pamela's gifts come from creating tarot cards which come to life with special powers to fight the Aleister and the Golden Dawn, who want to control the power her tarot deck will bring.
Hunger Game Series by Carolyn McCormick, Suzanne Collins - Katniss as the central character has talents she must utilize to survive and provide for her family, while dodging the fatal games run by The Capitol. Her special skills of hunting, tracking and archery are developed to work with a team and persevere through the regime. Published by Scholastic Corporation, 2008
Hunger Games vrs. Magician and Fool - Both Katniss and Pamela as young girls must prove their talents in a somewhat hostile environment without the benefit of a strong mother presence. Pamela must prove herself to Bram Stoker that she has the fortitude to take on the strange world of the Golden Dawn, while remaining true to her link to the other world.
“The handsome young Nera, using his walking stick to steady himself while his wee white dog weaved in and out at his side, came out of the thicket of trees singing as he walked up the pathway, his songs echoing down the mountainside. Wearing a light flowered tunic that belonged more to the Renaissance than to eighteen hundreds and carrying a white rose, the symbol of pure desires, the wind blowing his blonde hair, he stopped at the mountaintop and looked around at the magnificent view; the dog was panting at his feet. Peering down at the ground it was as if he were looking for something, a pathway forgotten somewhere in the dirt. Where the path split in two, his little dog started pawing and yipping, and the young man went to see what the dog had discovered. ‘It’s an entrance to a cave!’ Nera exclaimed.”
Pamela Colman Smith, seven-years-old, was seated, cross-legged on the bedroom floor as Maud Gonne sprawled across the bed. At just fifteen, she was almost six-feet-tall, so her head extended past the twin bed’s solid frame; and as she propped herself up on one hand, she hovered over her young friend, and continued to elegantly gesture above her. Maud was the daughter of Captain Gonne, a friend of Pamela’s father, and they had been living in Ireland for the past two years. Now they were here in Manchester for the week. Maud had a slightly put-on Irish accent for her stories, which she had claimed she had heard from an Irish fairy herself. Mounds of wavy, red hair piled on top of her head, Irish lace sleeves, the scent of violet perfume and a diabolically tight corset contrasted with Pamela’s wild, dark hair flying around her face, and her plain cotton dress, wrinkled and spotted with water color paint. Pamela watched her storyteller, her own dark eyes full and solemn as she sat playing with the hem of Maud's dress trailing off the edge of the bed. To have the unobstructed attention of her glamorous friend and hear an Irish Fairy tale in the bargain was almost too thrilling and her brain buzzed and hummed in pleasure at Maud’s voice. But, of course, Maud could hardly get through her story without Pamela interrupting every few minutes.
“And it was here at this entrance of the fairy mound cave, that the bold Nera, on returning to Cruachan, saw the fairy hosts flying into the cave. And these are no ordinary Aes Sídhe, no fallen angels or limbo world fliers, but angels the ancestors worshipped. These are the Aristocratic Kings and Queens of the Fairy World – as beautiful as any human, with tiny wings or magical flower stalks; they fly with the speed of humming bird and the strength of an eagle. Now, these fairy-mounds of Erinn that Nera spied are always opened about Halloween.”
“Hallow Eve, that’s tonight!! The thirty-first of October, Eighteen-Eighty-Five! Fifteen more years and we’ll be living in the 1900’s!”
“Hush, Pamela, let me finish the story. ‘And brave Nera followed after them, creeping through the mouth of the cave and saw before him the handsomest warrior fairies flying over a beautiful land. He tried to keep up with them, leaping from cliff to cliff, until he came to their king in the síd.’ ”
“Maud, what’s a síd?”
“The Fairy Underworld. How many times have I told ya? Once he was taken into this land, the fairy magic of resetting time was cast on him, he no longer knew how much time he spent in this land of enchantment. Then he fell in love. Love makes all things speed up time or slow down to an agony pace. But it was when he saw this beautiful fairy, daughter of the King, he knew she was his intended. So, in the síd he remained and was married, and madly in love with his fairy wife. She it was who revealed to Nera the secret hiding-place in the síd, in a mysterious well, of the king's golden crown.”
“Why would the fairies hide a crown in a well?”
“Would you look for a crown there? But he began to pine for his human family and on the following November Eve, the Hallow Eve, Nera escaped the Fairy world, determined to go back to his human people to tell them of the sights that he had seen in the Fairy Underworld. ‘But how will it be believed I have gone into the fairy world of síd?', he asked his wife. 'Take fruits of summer with thee,' said his fairy spouse. So he took wild garlic, primrose and golden fern and left the fairy world and his fairy wife.”
“Why?! Why would he leave his fairy wife?”
“Sure don’t you know, he wanted to brag to his fellow humans about how special he was to have been living in the world of enchantment, with plates of fairy gold and all the wine and music one could ask for. But, wouldn’t you know, if there’s one trait the fairies won’t stand for, it’s bragging!”
“He’s a braggart!”, she said softly to herself in the revelation.
“And when he was out of the fairy kingdom, his friends and family didn’t believe him. And so badly did he wanted to show his friends the crown and gold, that on the following November Eve when the síd of Cruachan was again open, and the fairy world was open, Nera snuck back with the black hosts of exile, the human traitors, and they plundered the síd, taking away from it the crown of Bruin out of the well. And they killed some of the Fairy Family before escaping. But Nera was forced to stay with his fairy wife in the síd by the King and his army and so the fairy world closed up on him again. Nera is now closed up in the Fairy Underworld and may only come out once a year. And he roams the earth looking for the murderers of his fairy family and for his friends and family. He yearns to boast of his life in the síd, but because time has stood still, he doesn’t understand that many years have passed and his people are all gone. His people in the fairy world and in the human world.”
Pamela rose from the floor and flung herself into Maud’s arms, snuggling against her dress. “His fairy wife must have had a word or two with him – goes away for a year and then brings back the human traitors? All so that he can show off?”
Maud kissed the top of Pamela’s head, “That’s the story! The fairies have the magic to make any world you might want, just to keep you there and if you cross them, well! You pay the price! And my family now tells this story each feast of Samain, Hallow Eve.”
“But we’re English, not Irish!”
“And neither are you, my girl! But tonight it is for us the other world opens up – English or Irish – during the feast of the dead before the time of the church.”
Maud looked down at the seven-year-old, seeing the images of flying fairies dancing in her head. There were a great many stories she had told Pamela over the years: The Other Side, the Fairy Underworld, Flying Kings and Queens. But it was the story of Nera, the fool, that Pamela loved the most.
“And is Nera still there in the síd?”
“Sure he is. Until tonight – Hallow Eve, when the síd of Cruachan opens up, Nera comes out to try to find the murderers who stole the crown of Bruin. He’s searching for them tonight!”
Pamela looked out the bedroom window at the lowering sun, the Hallow or what Maud called Samain, was almost here. Nera was out there somewhere and the thought thrilled her.
Maud stood and took a small pair of iron scissors from a sewing bench and placed them on the windowsill.
“Fairies hate iron. We’ll keep these scissors here to make sure that they don’t make off with ya!”
Pamela jumped up and stood on the bench and looked out with her onto the twilight settling over the neighboring homes; the calls of parents to their errant children echoing through the cobblestone paved streets. Withington Road was just now coming alive with men arriving home from work. Downstairs, the rustle of the servants preparing for the evening meal rang up through the staircase as her father was greeted entering the front door. Pamela’s mother was preparing for her part of the evening’s entertainment when she would perform her fortune telling in the parlor by taking a very long, hot bath, which was not to be disturbed under any circumstances. The Smiths ran in a very artistic set in this industrial city, as her father was the accountant for an arts and crafts design firm, Nicholas, Culshaw and Company. His job meant the arts and crafts artists were usually at their house for supper.
In a short time, there would be supper in the kitchen with the staff, Pamela out of the way for the night’s activities while Maud would prepared her toilette for the evening. Pamela was not invited to the supper table in the formal dining room, but she might briefly attend the entertainment portion of the evening, depending on her mother’s mood. She would recite a story or sing a quick song and then be ushered out by the maid while her parents sat beaming at her from across the room. Later in the evening, she would hear the guests below her bedroom, as the guests began singing with the piano and other instruments, the room pulsing and throbbing with laughter. Still later there would be shouts from the guests playing parlor games and guessing contests. A world of excitement rang out only two flights down from her bedroom, but it might as well have been an ocean away. She felt a heavy dread in her chest as she knew she was the time was coming when she would be excluded from the evening’s festivities.
Maud called her over to the vanity and motioned her to sit to begin the attempts to tame her hair, her Irish accent now replaced by the somewhat refined English accent she was born with. “You look like you’ve been pulled through a bush backwards. Let’s tame this before the Boggart sees you.”
The Boggart was the malicious spirit that attached itself to the household and according to Maud it was especially disruptive when hair wasn’t brushed, baths weren’t taken and toys weren’t put away. But mostly the Boggart would pinch Pamela when her hair was flyaway since her hair was the bane of her mother’s existence. While her mother and her grandmother had fine brown hair with some blonde near the temples, Pamela’s hair was black, thick and curly, refusing to lie in the neat buns and piled knots that were the fashion of the day. Maud managed to coax fat sausage curls that would last at least until after dinner. But her mother’s fringed bangs, curled by hot tongs, was a beauty standard not to be embodied by her daughter, no matter how skillfully Maud arranged the abundant hair which seemed to have a mind of its own. Usually it was tied up in braids and pinned on top, the simplest way to style and hide it. She remembered a time parading in the streets of London with her mother and grandmother and seeing the damp, fog flatten their styled hair to limp, pinned plaits while her own hair exploded like fecund dandelions in the humid air. She remembered a passerby exclaiming, “That’s a fine head of hair” but seeing the reaction from her mother, she could tell that the meaning was that it wasn’t a fine head of hair. “Her parents are from the Caribbean, I take it?”, added one woman and her grandmother snapped, “They are Americans! As I am!” These remarks confused Pamela very much.
“How did you learn how to talk like the Irish?” Pamela asked the slender, towering girl standing behind her, curling her hair.
“We’ve been stationed in Dublin for the past two years, so you start to sound like those around you.”
“Where will you live next?”
“Paris. Remember that’s where your Father took you as a baby to meet the Aunt.”
“Counting the seizures?”
“Yes, you remembered! Comtesse de la Sizeranne.”
When Pamela was a baby, her father, Charles Edward Smith, took his family to Paris in 1879 to visit Maud and Captain Gonne. The Charles Smith family came from distinguished stock in New York, his father being a man of great esteem and wealth. Some twenty years before the civil war, Pamela’s grandfather had pulled himself out of complete poverty to become a lawyer, a senator, an entrepreneur and finally, Mayor of Brooklyn. This pull also afforded Mr. Cyrus Porter Smith the luxury of keeping his son, who was nineteen when it ended, out of the Civil War. Cyrus Smith had also invested in the Brooklyn City Rail Road, and he had high hopes for his son to inherit his great many dreams and businesses. But Charles was not ambitious, he was dreamy and distant and always seemed to be somewhere else. “Really, Charles, an accountant?” When his father took him to task for not applying himself, he asked his father, “Where should I apply myself? You are everywhere, Father.”
However, he was not everywhere forever, for he died the year before Pamela was born, leaving Charles to take his inheritance and move to England with his wife. And if ever there was a person Charles seemed to respond to, it was his wife, Corinne.
Corinne Colman, a fashionable and lively person, loved storytelling, séances and picture games. She could read palms, recite full passages from Charles Dickens and shout out the answers before anyone when the parlour games were in full swing. Full of fun, always artfully made up with tints and creams, she captivated Charles with her love of entertainment and entertaining. The year after the Civil War ended, they married and it was remarked that Charles was a polite but somewhat dull man who loved to be around those more animated than himself, which meant even the sullenest, sleeping cat had more charisma. But Cyrus Smith, Charles’ father and mayor of Brooklyn, thought he married beneath himself and suspected that Corinne was much older than she claimed and refused to endorse the alliance. Corinne was so incensed over her father-in-law’s treatment towards her that she kept her maiden name calling cards, making sure the “Boston Colmans” were not forgotten. They moved to London to “make something of themselves.” They first lived in Pimlico, a middle class neighborhood in London, but now lived in Manchester, where Charles still worked as an accountant. At the unheard-of age of thirty-two years, Corinne gave birth to Pamela. The child’s full name was Corinne Pamela Colman Smith, but she was always known as Miss Pamela Colman Smith to the outside world and “Miss Pamela” to her parents.
But if Pamela was a late-in-life gift to her mother, she was not an especially cherished one. Even with two servants and a nursery maid, neither of Pamela’s parents rarely had time for her. She was tutored at home and had an art instructor, Mr. Miggons, and that was enough attention for any child, according to her mother. Her artwork presented was usually met with a cool eye and a pointed remark. Once she overheard her mother saying that Pamela’s drawings should have “been mailed to Brooklyn and shown to her grandfather’s family to prove there is a little talent in the Colman Smith Family.” Corinne’s own mother was a published author of children’s books in America, so it was impressed upon Pamela that she came from an accomplished family, at least on her mother’s side, according to her mother. To be noticed by her parents took work and application. Her father, usually distracted and unfocused, would always look up surprised, when she was in the same room and say, “Oh, Miss Pamela. Where is your mother?” Sunday was the only time when Pamela joined her mother and father socially when they went to church. They attended the weekly service of a new collective called the Swedenborgians.
Emanuel Swendenborg had been a well-respected scientist in Sweden in the seventeen hundreds. At the age of fifty-five, he had had a vision of Jesus, who had convinced him to devote his life to theology. He went on to write many books about his visits to Heaven and Hell. While in Heaven and Hell, he had had conversations with angels, devils, and spirits of the departed. Through astral travel, he had also visited the planets Mercury, Jupiter, and Mars, and the Moon, where he spoke with humans who became angels and humans who were evil enough to become demons. Some of the trances in which he experienced astral travel “lasted a day,” he wrote, “others a week, and yet others for months.” When he talked like that from the pulpit, Pamela could hear a low buzzing sound travel from one ear to another and feel her arms try to rise up, as though ready to join the legions of Swedenborgians bobbing around planets, like drunken bumble bees finding strange, new nectar. As her wrists started to rise up, she knew to stifle the urge to fly, for her mother would give her a look out of the corner of her eye, imperiling the condition of the outing.
Even though Swedenborg had died a century ago and his books were in Latin, there was now a craze for his mystical form of religion, and when a Swedenborgian group assembled in Manchester, Pamela’s mother was determined to belong to it. This new religion believed that the devil was not a separate entity but the personification of human evil and that after death, one would be come an angel or evil spirit, depending on the sort of life one had led. One belief which especially appealed to Pamela was the idea that after death, a person’s mind would fall asleep for three days in “the world of the spirits.” Her mother explained to her that after dying, a person would awaken and encounter spirits who would help with the transition to the afterlife. She pestered her mother for days afterwards as to the process. “How big are the spirits? What color are they? Will they have fancy clothes or wings?” In her mind, they were a combination of Irish Fairies, angels with wings and possibly, dragons or ponies, for she was very fond of the neighbor’s horse. And it wasn’t until the fat, old horse, Temperance, died that it occurred to her that her mother was talking about being taken away perhaps in the same manner as Temperance was, roughly loaded onto a cart and carried off. When she found her mother, she was in her room being laced into a corset by the maid. When she sobbed to her mother that she was worried she would leave her for other planets, her mother replied, “After three days, I will be dancing my slippers off, so don’t mourn for me!” Pamela stood open mouthed, watching the bustle cage strapped around her mother’s posterior and the beautiful, blue calico dress, the same color as her mother’s eyes, slip overhead. Her oval face framed by tight curls, the dainty slipper peeking underfoot the sapphire-blue, pleated skirt. She was a vision. The skirt lifted slightly and a small, hopping jig was performed in front of the bedroom mirror. So there it was. Heaven was a big ball where her mother would be dancing until the sun came up. Corinne was born in Boston before the Civil War, so this idea of heaven certainly didn’t seem to come from the Colman side of the family. But Pamela’s mother prepared for this heavenly state by being constantly in motion amid a whirlwind of social activities and group get-togethers. And the only thing about Pamela guaranteed to get a concerned reaction was the state of her daughter’s hair.
Maud and her family visited every two or three years, and she was the sister Pamela never had. In her bedroom, Maud stood behind her, finishing the spinning and pinning of her hair before the vanity mirror, while shrieks from one of the parlor maids were heard coming up the stairwell. One of them must have opened the front door to the “guise dancers,” villagers who would appear in masks on this night at the houses in town to frighten the children.
“It sounds like the maskers are about it now on this Samain,” Maud mused excitedly as she looked at Pamela in the mirror.
Pamela looked back at her, totally unimpressed with the improved styling to her hair. “Maud, why does Nera look for the murderers on Samain?”
“As the story goes, it’s one of the nights of the year when the other side comes through.”
“And magic is out tonight?”
“Magic is out every night, tonight all mortals can touch it.”
“Touch magic, where? Can you? Touch it?”
Maud put the brush down and stared out the window. “Well, I’m not saying I can do the magic, but we can imagine more what the magic is like tonight.”
“How? How? Oh, I’m frightened!” She grabbed Maud hand, keeping the brush from yet another dip into her hair.
“Ah, my fairy sister. You must never be frightened of anything. Not even death.”
“Is Nera afraid of dying while he’s out looking for the murderers of his Fairy family?”
“No, he’s the best part of a fool taking chances. He doesn’t know any better. Well, let’s pretend to be Nera stepping off the cliff and see, shall we?”
Maud ran and jumped on the bed, standing near the edge, ducking her head slightly to keep from hitting the low ceiling. In a very exaggerated style, she posed as Nera in the underworld, slowly jumping from one cliff to another, one foot dangling off the bed. Delighted and laughing, Pamela made her way to kneel before the bed, grabbing her stationary foot, anchoring her to the bed. Maud made whistling sounds as though she were flying in the air like a bird, laughing, as Pamela tugged on her foot until she fell on the bed. They tussled and screeched and laughed. Then Pamela claimed, “My turn!” and after she clambered onto the bed, Maud held Pamela by the foot as she pretended to step off the cliff.
Pamela suddenly became frightened and looking back at Maud she cried, ”What if I really fall?”
Maud softly urged her, “And what if you really fly?” She loosened her grip on her ankle. “Fly!”
Pamela fell off the bed onto the soft rug, both of them laughing as she landed. As Pamela sat up, she jerked as though she were having some sort of spasm. Behind her eyes an image froze – the blond, young man was looking up, his dog leaping at his heels. She heard the sounds of far-off music. She opened her eyes and looked down at the dried smudges of watercolor paint on her dress. Still in front of her, as she sat on the floor, a tableau played out in midair. Nera. Nera was in the air – swirling like a cloud before a storm. Nera’s yellow boot rose from the side of the path towards the cliff’s edge. Her eyes darted back and forth from the image of the young man on the path and the watercolor stains on her dress, feeding the tableau, as music such as she had never heard started to play. Uilleann pipes and a harp tinkled an airy, slow song, the phrases lilting in an upward pattern.
Maud’s face appeared over the edge of the bed and looked down at her sharply, “What is it, child, what is happening?”
It hit Pamela in the face first, the stronger shade of yellow. A young-chick yellow painted the sky, now it matched the pair of yellow boots walking on the path, one foot up, the other planted on the ground. It was yellow shade that her art tutor, Mr. Miggons had chided her for over using, she loved to use it in everything. In his Scottish accent he had called her “Miss Sunnyside up” and implored her to use other colors. But here it was, the yellow she loved. As music pulsated, an inked image of the Fool formed an outline in front of her. It was the young man, he had one arm stretched out holding a rose, yellow, then it turned white. The other arm balanced a pole with a bag tied at the end, yellow, then red. His Renaissance tunic sported pale yellow sunflowers, which began to sprout to a vivid blaring yellow on his chest while the insides of his sleeves began to bleed a bright red. White mountains, white sun, white dog all sketched themselves into an outline and grouped themselves alongside him, the mountain path becoming dark as the music became more frenetic. The tableau froze in the air, the music momentarily slowing.
She stood, shook her head and reached out where the tableau had hung in midair. She then raced to crawl back on top of her bed to fly again. Maud switched places and sat on the floor, watching her. Pamela raised both arms for balance and slowly lifted one foot off the bed, as her Fool did. There was no tableau but in her mind’s eye, Nera again came to the spot on the mountain pathway. Maud then lay down on her back, both hands behind her head as though she were watching clouds going by, whistling the sounds of flying as Pamela teetered above her. Pamela looked up and out the window saw the last rays of the sun starting to dip out of sight. The music in her head played even more loudly, and in time she felt herself lift her other foot off the bed. The blood inside her body was warm and churning. She reached towards the last rays of the yellow sun with both hands outstretched. Nera also lifted his other foot off the cliff. She moved forward, lifting her other foot in unison.
Pamela cried out, “Look out, Nera, my Fool!”
Looking down, she saw she was floating in the air above an astonished Maud.
An hour later, Maud and Pamela were still waiting outside Mrs. Smith’s boudoir, as Pamela’s mother luxuriated in her eucalyptus bath, said to be good for the lungs and the cheeks. She knew better than to burst into the room, for few things were as sacred in the house as Mother’s bath time. The maid, Mairead, had been running up and down the stairs with heavy buckets of hot water. The kitchen had used most of the hot water heated downstairs on the stove earlier for the preparation of tonight’s meal and that left the tiny Mairead to lug endless buckets of scalding water up four flights of stairs to pour into the soaking tub for Mrs. Smith. The walk from the garage where the butler had set up a temporary burner to the bathing room was an ordeal but Mrs. Smith’s bath was not to be delayed.
Maud sat with her back flat against the hallway wall, her long legs stretching almost to the other wall, where the sounds of the exhausted Mairead struggle with the huge bucket as she trudged up the stairs. She made sure to curl her long legs up to under her so she could get by. Not a word was said between them. Then there was the last trip, where the plain, grey wool dress came into view, but this time she carried the hot tongs and ribbons for hair dressing, so the girls knew the bath session was almost done.
“Do you think she’ll believe us?” Pamela asked Maud throwing herself down next to her so that she could lie on her back and look up at the ceiling.
“I don’t know. Have you ever told her something like that has happened to you before?” Maud asked kindly.
“Well, I’ve told her about when I hear music, I see the colors. But she said that’s just a family thing and not to talk about it in public. I thought everyone saw colors when they heard music, but now I know, it’s just me. I’m strange.”
Maude reached over and clasped her hands, “Thank the gods, you’re unique. You’re blessed, Pamela. You have real gifts! It’s a family thing!”
“It’s a family thing? You think my mother feels those things sometimes too?”
“Who knows? Your mother certainly sees the world differently than most.”
The sounds of laughter and drawers being opened and shut came from behind the closed door. Maud and Pamela stood in expectation and lined up to enter. Mairead opened the door, a small cloud of steam escaped and as she looked up, was surprised to see the two girls still standing in the hall. She was holding clothes to be washed in one hand and a pail full of lotions and ribbons in the other. She wore the pleased look of someone who had dined with a king.
“What can I do for you?” she asked, closing the door firmly behind her.
“Pamela wishes to have a quick word with her mother and I’d like to be there too. Something amazing has just happened” Maud blurted out, talking down to the short, defiant girl.
Behind the door Pamela’s mother relaxed and low voice called out ”You don’t need to come in, just tell me what happened through the door.”
Pamela went to the door and bent down to talk through the keyhole just in time to hear the click of a lock.
“Mother, please! You have to let us in to tell you. I flew! I actually flew in the bedroom. Maud was there. She saw it!”
Mairead turned white and looked at Pamela with wide eyes and scurried down the hall to the staircase.
Maud leaned against the door and loudly called to Mrs. Smith, “It’s true, Mrs. Smith, she flew right above me. It didn’t last very long, but she flew sure as I’m standing here!”
There was a moment of silence and then a sigh, “Maud, I’m going to let you in for a quick talk. Pamela, I’ll deal with you in a moment. Now don’t tell that story to anyone else. Maud, come in.” The sound of the lock turned again. Maud looked at Pamela’s face, full of hope and earnestness. Maud crossed her fingers to give her the signal that she would try her best and she turned the ornate glass knob.
Once the door was shut, Pamela slid down, straining to hear the conversation between Maud and her mother. But I flew! Pamela thought to herself. I don’t understand why Mother doesn’t want to hear about it.
She slumped to a sitting position and pressed her ear against the door, straining to hear. The maid, Maud, everyone had more access to her mother than she did and a lump formed in her throat. Then an urgent undertone murmured in the next room, and blue/black chalk-like bubbles came up in her throat. Just as she tasted an acrid, flat taste in her mouth, she noticed something bat-like poke its head out of the keyhole and in one graceful swoop, fly out of the small opening and disappear down the hallway, skimming along the ceiling until it turned the corner.
What is that? she wondered. Is it something that was taking a bath with mother? She stood, scanned the hallway and ceiling. Nothing. She ran down the length of the hall and stood at the corner where the east wing of the house had a row of small bedrooms. Nothing. The window at the end of the hall was shut tight and in the dim light she could not see anything on the ceiling. A slight fear came over her and she looked every which way, prepared to bat whatever it was away. Whatever it was that came out was now gone and nowhere to be seen. These visions happened frequently to her and no one knew why or how. She had learned to accept them but sometimes it was jarring to see things when she was alone, as she had no way to prove that she had witnessed these strange apparitions.
The household regarded all the qualities that she felt were special about herself as terrible, freakish secrets. No one in the family or the help were to know anything about her unusual reactions to things. No paintings or drawings were to be made around anyone but her teacher, Mr. Miggons, lest Pamela talk about all her experiences. Her mother said that her abilities to see feelings and taste colors were “…odd to a few people, strange to most and terrifying to everyone else.”
Finally, the door handle turned and Maud stepped out. Pamela jumped up, ready to talk with her mother when Maud pulled the door closed.
“What? Can’t I go in and tell her? Doesn’t she believe us?” Pamela cried.
Maud put her arm around her and walked with her to the stairs to climb up to her bedroom, tears falling down Pamela’s cheeks.
“Now is that anyway for the sister of a fairy to behave?”
“It is! It is when the Fairy Mother doesn’t believe her!” Pamela said through the hot tears, melting down her face.
Maud pulled her to her, gently lifter her head up and kissed her on the forehead. As she wrapped her under her arm and they made their way up the flight of stairs she whispered, “Pamela, your mother has a very hard time believing you are as special as you are. She has problems of her own and she’s worried if people hear of this they might shun her… erh, you.”
Pamela stopped on the stairs and looked up at Maud, “But you believe me, Maud! You saw! You saw me fly!”
“Yes, darling, my fairy sister. You flew!” She embraced Pamela and smoothed some of the wild hair dancing around her head. “Your mother said if we don’t mention a word of what happened, not even to your father, we both would be allowed to stay up and come into the parlor tonight after dinner.”
Pamela eyes filled up again, “I can’t even tell Father what happened?”
Maud stroked Pamela’s face. “But she did say this: tonight you may present your miniature of the Theatre Royal Manchester for the artists to see. I am to sing a song, she said. If we agree never to mention it.”
“Well, never to other people.”
“And you get to sing!”
“Ah, my Pamela. I have to sing for my supper. But I’ll show them. I’ll sing in French so they won’t know a single thing I’m singing.”
They arrived back at Pamela’s bedroom, her flushed face still roiling with tears streaming down her face.
“I know you flew. I saw you fly. You flew brilliantly!” With that, she took her finger and pressed it between Pamela’s two eyes. “What do you say, Pamela? Our secret?”
Startled, Pamela looked into her eyes, took a deep breath, the burning trails of tears cooling, and softly whispered, “Yes. Our secret.”
“And whenever you need me or my help, always remember, you have a gift, you must find it, just as Nera looks for his treasure.”
Maud tapped on her forehead lightly once last time.
Later that night as Pamela lay in her bed, listening to Maud sing her fifth song as the piano thumped along, Pamela thought back on the day and the day’s magic. The room was dark, with no candle or lamp lit, but she had cracked her door open so that the gas light in the hallway spilled in. Her presentation of the miniature theatre went well, but she could tell her mother was not pleased to have her still in the room after the initial ooh’s and ahh’s. Father was surprised as she explained the structure of her theatre model, and in the beginning he looked almost worried. But when the designers stood to inspect her work, he saw their avuncular pride in her and he relaxed and smiled at her. The two main designers of the firm, Mr. Nicholas and Mr. Culshaw, made a big fuss over the detachable roof, the four stone pillars in the front, and the cantilevered windows on the side with the arched tops. The real theatre had been built in 1845 during the height of the Victorian shoebox style, and it was classical and hardy. The designers themselves were theatergoers and it was they who had given her a postcard of the Theatre Royal Manchester. She had used that as a model for the miniature and loved putting in all the little touches. She used all her mother’s hatboxes to construct the arches for the box seats and the tiers in the balcony. In fact, Pamela claimed every scrap of cardboard or hatbox in the household so that she might use it in her masterpiece.
It had been a big success. The Theatre Royal Manchester glowed on the low table next to her bed. If it could pant after the showing it got tonight, it would, thought Pamela. She reached out to pat it, hearing another gale of laughter rise from the party downstairs.
She got out from underneath the blanket and knelt on her bed, trying to hear what was happening. Tomorrow Maud would have to tell her everything that went on.
She gazed out her window and saw wisps of clouds stretching past the pearl-pitted moon and thought of all the magic on the other side trying to press itself through to this side tonight. She wondered if Nera was still out there looking for the thieves who stole the crown of Bruin. Then it occurred to her to try to fly again. She gathered her nightgown around her so that her legs were free and waddled to end of the bed. Dropping her nightgown’s skirt, she held out her arms and lifted one foot off the bed’s edge, circling it.
Taking a deep breath, she heard the clock strike two. She tried to lift the other foot off the bed but fell in a clump on the floor, rolling towards the wall, knocking her little bedside table to the floor. The miniature theatre was now underneath her, the main part of the building between her arms, the roof section on top of her head. She lay there for a moment and then started to laugh. Collecting herself, she sat up and saw the roof. Before she knew it, she was crying, holding the mangled roof. She gathered the main body of the theatre on one side, and cradled the remains with the other so that she was sandwiched in between the two parts of the Theatre Royal Manchester.
I’ll spend tonight inside my own theatre, she consoled herself and crawled into her own bed. There, she curled up and held both pieces of her theatre as tenderly as a broken doll. Sleep came to her as sweet notes of beige; it tasted like cream and soothed her hot tears. The scarlet seats from the miniature theatre beckoned her thoughts to come and sit and escape into their own private dreamland.
Ellen and Henry Irving, performing in Macbeth, were lit by the soft glow of limelight on the center stage of the Lyceum Theatre in the story of an ambitious, childless couple who commit atrocities in order to advance themselves was a mixture of melodrama and horror. Pamela could never imagine her childless, if anything, she was frustrated that she was one of the many who wished to be granted access into the inner circle of the Terry offstage family. Tonight, Ellen was wearing the famous beetle dress, the thousands of iridescent beetle wings shimmering in the globed light of the stage. Henry wore a very ornate crown and a tartan tunic with a belt shaped like an ouroboros, a snake biting its own tail. He was hunched over Ellen’s hands as their characters both listened for the knocking at the doors after Macbeth’s murder of Duncan.
Edy and Pamela were both in armor, standing next to a primitive electrical light unit backstage, waiting for their entrance. Pamela kept touching the socket, the blue current running up and down her chain mail costume.
Both had returned to London after touring in America and England for almost two years. London had changed a lot since they had been there. Edy’s brother, Gordon, was no longer living with Ellen’s parents but with Ellen. William Terriss had married, it was said in the company, and Henry had written him several times to return to the Lyceum to be a company member, but he was now off importing race horses from Egypt. The sheer size of the theatre company had grown and Pamela felt the intimacy she felt with the Lyceum Theatre tour group evaporate, some people didn’t even know who William Terriss was. She still had some distant cousins who lived in Pimlico, but since the death of her parents, contact with them consisted only of casual correspondence. The only member of her family she still communicated with regularly was her Grandmother Colman, in America, and her newly introduced Uncle Samuel, a world-famous painter.
The two girls had been roommates and best of companions during this time, with Ellen acting as a sort of mother to Pamela. Edy was loathe to dine out using her mother’s name, so she went by the name Edy Craig, Craig being the name of her father, whom she rarely saw, although Ellen was friendly with all her former lovers, much to Henry Irving’s dismay. But Edy seemed to be disappearing inside herself lately, as though there were secrets she could no longer confide to her best friend or her mother.
The soirees that Pamela and Edy threw together as co-hosts, the newsletter they published with Gordon, Edy’s brother, the set design, the performances where Pamela recited her Jamaican stories, all their entertaining of the Bohemian crowd was their bond. But, even with all these activities, they did not earn much more than they did from their small roles with the Lyceum Theatre.
Edy, the elder, still looked after Pamela and called her by the nickname her mother gave her. Seeing the blue flame still racing over her, she whispered, “Pixie, doesn’t that hurt?”
Pamela was still engrossed by the small blue flame living among the wires. “Edy, watch. If you touch this metal part, you can see. Blue flames mean a ghost is near.”
“Pixie, that can't be good for you!”
“Try it, it only burns a little!”
Hesitantly, Edy brushed her hand against the socket, and the blue flame crawled over her armor.
“OH MY MOTHER GOD!”
Edy bent over, breathless, from the shock of the current. Bram, standing near the stage curtain watching the scene, shot them a deadly look. The six-foot-two bear of a man leaned toward them and harshly whispered, “Hush now! And stop playing with that electricity! They use that to cure the mentally deranged.”
Just then they heard the hissing in the audience. Someone had started to comment on the scene by heckling the actors and the steady hiss started to grow among “the gods”, the seats in the upper most tiers, the cheap seats.
Ellen, with blood in her eyes, came to the moment in the play where she was to reprimand her husband. She took herself to the edge of the stage and looking straight up into “the gods”, she deliberately directed her next line. “Screw your courage to the sticking-place and we’ll not fail.” This prompted a round of applause from the audience and silenced the would-be hecklers.
But there seemed to be trouble in the romance between with Ellen Terry and Sir Henry Irving. Ellen, now in her early forties, had two independent offspring, Gordon wanting to be a theatre director and Edy, socializing with a Bohemian Suffragist group but no longer confiding in Ellen in the intimate way she had in the past. Ellen could see Henry was overworked, employing over 200 people and always concerned with touring, budgets and casting.
And now she could sense his devotion to her was on the wane. Her lightheartedness and mirth used to charm him, but now he seemed annoyed. When she slid down the banister and landed in front of him the first time they met, he seemed sincerely awestruck by her carefree manner. If she were to do that now, he would bring up the issues of insurance and Bram’s understudy availability.
Bram Stoker was the machine that made the Lyceum theatre hum. Totally devoted to Henry, he waited on him night and day, even sleeping in a room at the theatre, rather than going home to his beautiful wife and son. Of poor Irish stock, he had worked his way up from theatre reviewer to manager of the world-famous Lyceum theatre company. It was Bram who helped make every major decision at the Lyceum Theatre for almost 20 years. But he was yearning for his play, The Undead, to be mounted on the Lyceum Stage, with Henry Irving playing the main role, Dracula. He had already culled some of the character’s names from the theatre world, Mr. Harker, Lucy, and from his associates at the Golden Dawn, Moira and Mina.
Pamela moved past Edy to try the socket once again but she bumped into Satish, standing in the wings.
Satish Monroe, Henry’s latest find, was a very handsome black man from the West Indies. Beautiful and impressive, with a booming voice, he was magnetic. His parents, from the West Indies, had escaped from America during the Civil War and brought him up to study Shakespeare in London. He was dressed as Banquo, wearing an elaborate crown, a beautiful doublet and an earring. He steadied Pamela as she almost fell.
“Did you feel a jolt of electricity, little one?”
Edy saw Pamela taking him in. They had both seen him during the rehearsals and were eager to know more about him. It wasn’t every day that a black actor performed at the Lyceum, much less one playing a major scene with Sir Henry Irving. They’d heard Henry say, “Not since Edwin Booth had he seen such a talent.” Edy pinched Pamela who was awe struck.
”I think she's feeling one now.”
Satish smiled at the two doting girls and whispered to them, “This new electricity is nothing to play with. You'd best beware. There's enough magic here tonight with this play.”
Pamela studied him, not placing his accent. “Are you Jamaican?”
Satish smiled broadly, “Ah, little girl, more class than that. Close. West Indies. How is it you know Jamaica?”
Pamela looked at him, suddenly homesick, missing the warm smiles, the big laughs from Nanny.
“I lived there with my mother and father.”
“Do you remember anything about it?”
Pamela suddenly remembered a sing song:
“Once on a time in Slingo Town
Each child was born a poet
Dashed were his wings when older got
Alas! He didn’t know it
And so we glided o’er the sea—”
Satish’s smile lit up and he seems to recall something private, murmuring, “You are a little star.”
Pamela leaned forward, “Pardon?”
“I haven’t heard that poem in many years.” He looked at her and then paused. He remembered how he was given a token to wear when he was starting out. These days, he wore many tokens, necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings. Finding the chain underneath his doublet, he pulled it over his head and showed her the pendant that was lying in his hand. It was a large five-pointed yellow star set in Mali garnet outlined in black.
“This is of the air, little one. It will protect you.”
He poured the chain and pendant into her hand, as her eyes grew wide. She mouthed the words, “Thank you.” Satish winked at her and moved away. She picked up the chain and placed it inside her left glove, clutching it tightly.
Mr. Lovejoy, the stage manager, suddenly raised the checkered flag, the cue for the extras to make their entrance. Edy and Pamela stood in a line, lowered the visors on their helmets, and walked in formation as the troops come to investigate the murders in the castle. They made their promenade silently as the other actors shouted out their lines. Five minutes later, they scampered backstage for the next scene, another promenade after the battle. Afterwards, Pamela rushed to the side of the stage and watched the end of the scene, Henry performing a monologue about remorse.
The next set of actors took the stage, and Henry and Ellen walked offstage to wait for their next entrance. With his chest out and head held back, Henry’s Macbeth looked fierce and full of energy, but the minute he was out of sight of the audience he went to his quick change room and sat exhaustedly in a chair. The room was a small chamber along the backstage wall but even it was decorated, with an oval rug, a mirror and a small table with a bowl of water. One of his dressers escorted Henry's fox terrier, Fussie, from down the hall. The little white dog came scampering to the seated Henry and jumped on his lap, licking his face. Henry scratched the little dog’s head while his tail twirled. Ellen and Bram made their way over to the little room, peeked in and entered, both petting the little dog in concert.
Henry and the two others took a moment to bathe the dog in caresses. He then sighed and looked at his dearest companions.
“Ah, Fussie, ready for the battle scene? Miss Terry, we will set this version of the final scene. I think it works best, don’t you, m’dear? Mr. Stoker, will Mr. Lovejay have those lime lights ready to be tested after the show tonight?”
Bram looked reassuringly at Henry, “Yes, Lovejoy will be prompt this time with the cue. And we will rehearse again when the curtain comes down.”
Bram walked out to where the technicians were readying the limelight’s and Ellen leaned against the chair nuzzling Fussie.
“How can you want to rehearse tonight after the show? You look like a great famished wolf as it is.”
Henry looked down, and his sadness seemed almost palpable. “You are not like anyone else, you see things with such lightning quickness.” He looked around and then quickly kissed her hand. “I’m only confused by one thing and disturbed by another, that is all.”
Ellen looked at his face and straightened his crown, which was slightly to the side. He looked up at her with a slight, sad smile. She laid her hand on his. “There, my Lord, your crown, although heavy, is now straight.”
Ellen and Henry almost embraced, but Fussie started to whine, jealous. Henry saw a signal outside the room from the stage managers and rose to make his next entrance. Ellen watched him with tears in her eyes but even she could not tell herself why.
Standing behind the curtain, Henry readied himself. In a whisper he asked “Mr. Stoker, all set?”
Seeing Fussie still seated in his room, he motioned across the expanse of the backstage, “Go on, Fussie, exit!”
Fussie, understanding his direction, scampered off down the hall to his dressing room. Ellen left his dressing room, wiping her eyes, Pamela watching her from her offstage.
The curtain parted and Henry strode energetically to center stage, addressing an unseen spirit downstage. Ellen, Edy and Pamela watched him from upstage center, peeking out from behind the curtain legs.
Henry as Macbeth watched the spirit float by in front of him. He then spun around, with his back to the audience, and saw it materialize before him. It was Satish, dressed as Banquo, flying on a harness above him.
In his deep rumbling voice Henry railed at the specter:
“O, treachery! — Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly !
Thou mayst revenge. — O slave !”
With those words, he then charged at Satish, who started to fly upwards, the unseen cables pulled and weighted from backstage. He flew up and out of sight, then rested on the catwalk. As Harvey went to unharness him, he gave a thumbs-up to Lovejoy at the deck level. Then he saluted Pamela and Edy, who stood watching his every move.
On stage, Henry planted himself with one hand raised, the other down.
“Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou doest glare with.”
From offstage, Pamela watched Henry’s scene and held her gloved hand out toward the stage. She felt something strange happening in her left hand where Satish’s pendant was still clenched inside her glove. She lifted her hand out to the stage, where she alone saw Henry rise, his black mustache framing his mouth, his ornate eight-pound crown gleaming, his large eyes, dark and flashing. He was a perfect demon/god – the sum of roles he loved to play, the fallen angel. The gas from the lights made his image undulate until he was a wavering mirage. She loved him so much, she wondered if she worshipped him.
An actor from onstage suddenly ran by her and handed her Henry’s helmet. She looked back to Henry, onstage, carrying on with the scene.
She remembered her task, to run to Henry’s quick-change room and preset the helmet for the next act. His dresser was busy on the other side of the off stage area with the end-of-show preparations. As she bent over the table with the helmet, her foot gave out beneath her, and she felt herself pitch backward, falling and hitting the wall of the little room. She sat on the floor shaking her head, trying to stand in her confining armor, when she noticed a false wall in the back of the room, opened by a hidden switch, which must she must have hit when she fell.
On top of the long altar lay a burnt ebony wand, the Bertrand Sword and a stage prop chalice from The Cup. All of these things were familiar to her from her time on tour with the Lyceum, the wand, the sword, the cup. But why were they all together on this hidden shelf? It came to her that they were there to protect Henry. But there was something missing…something. She knelt down and took off her left glove to add the star pendant and chain from Satish, carefully arranging them between the cup and the sword. Wand, sword, cup, star. There, all the tokens together.
Carefully finding the edge of the shelf, she swung it back up, its sides enveloping it so that it was once more was invisible. She stood there staring at the false wall, a part of her knowing that her Great Man was collecting things to practice magic, just as her tokens from the King Arthur banner she had painted many years ago were protecting him. Now he needed them all in one spot. She couldn’t explain to herself how she knew they belonged together.
Listening to the music of the show, and seeing she had time, she quickly made her way to the prop table. From under it she grabbed her sketchpad and sat cross-legged on the floor next to the wall under the prompter’s lamp and started to draw. Henry had taught her the Egyptian signs of protection: a pelican, a pair of walking legs and a circle with a dot in the center.
Bram Stoker passed by and saw her sitting on the floor in her armor, her gloves off, drawing on a sketchpad. Quietly he stood next to her, looking at her artwork. Egyptian drawings. Then he saw her draw the wand, sword, cup and star. The magician’s suite all assembled and Bram knew immediately:
It was time for her to meet the Golden Dawn.