Spirit of the River Thames

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A spell to conjure The Spirit of the River Thames was once one of the highlights of Vinculus's magical performances, in the days when, in defiance of all Magistracy, he held court at his booth in Threadneedle-street. He would first fall into a solemn trance and then enter into conference with the Spirit, which to the awe of onlookers would answer him through his own mouth, but in mysterious accents far different from his usual voice[13]. The effect was very grand: the more so as Vinculus could make his eyes flash boldly, much in the manner of a stage brigand[20]. Unfortunately the awful effect of these trances was spoilt one day by the actions of a mischievous onlooker, who impudently set the magician's shoes on fire whilst he was at the height of his oratory. Roaring in pain and flinging himself about to free himself from the agony of fiery footwear, Vinculus happened to vomit forth a little pipe or organ he had till then concealed in his throat. When a hardy soul among his auditors inserted the organ into his own mouth, he found he too could produce the Voice of the Spirit of the Thames.

We must remember however that Vinculus was no mere Mountebank but, as Childermass discovered, a talented but wholly untaught magician[21]: and while it has to be admitted that in conjuring forth the spirit of a river he was pretending to a power he did not possess, nevertheless the attempt was less foolish than it may appear. Certainly a fairy would not have found anything intrinsically odd in trying to communicate with the soul of a body of running water. As Mr. Norrell observed, "Fairies do not make a strong distinction between the animate and the inanimate. They believe that stones, doors, trees, fire, clouds and so forth all have souls and desires, and are either masculine or feminine[33]."