The market place was filled with barrows and stalls piled high with fruit and vegetables and flowers. A butcher tempted the crowd with offers of exceptional sausages and succulent steaks. ‘Ten a penny’ called out a boy selling candles and tapers.
In the middle of the square stood an ornate stage, an octagonal brightly painted structure of yellow and red with a blue pointed roof from which a long thin orange flag waved in the breeze. A pair of green and silver velvet curtains concealed the contents of this most mysterious of places.
There was a flash and a bang, the curtains flew aside and with a swirl of a purple and gold cape he appeared. He grinned; his white teeth sparkled beneath a glossy pointed moustache. He plucked his top hat from his head and with a flourish bowed low to the floor.
He raised himself to his full height, cleared his throat and with a booming voice he began to address the assembled crowd.
‘My name’ he bellowed ‘is Maximillian Montmorencey’
‘Kind gentlemen and fair ladies, gather round. Prepare yourselves for an astonishing and extraordinary demonstration of incomprehensible and bewildering dexterity. Step up step up. Be sure you will be unable to comprehend what your eyes are about to witness’
‘I need a volunteer. Step forward my man, yes you’ he said pointing in the direction of a small man in a cloth cap.
Trust me sir, no harm will befall you’
The small man nervously climbed onto the stage, removed his coat and cap then turned toward the audience. Any fear he felt was dispelled as he started to enjoy his newly acquired star status and began a rapid succession of jerky bows.
Maximillian Montmorencey flung the golden cover from a table in the middle of the stage and invited the small man to step up onto it, lie down and relax.
‘Trust me my friend’ he said 'Trust me'
The small man did as he was told and the gold cover was placed completely over his body.
‘Drums’ roared the magician. Not a sound came forth. ‘Drums’ he screamed his cheeks suddenly flushing scarlet.
With that a ragged little boy scampered up onto the stage dragging a side drum. ‘Sorry Max’ he squeaked. ‘You will be my boy, you will be’
The lad proceeded to beat out a roll on the drum, quietly at first then building in a crescendo.
The magician slowly began to slide the table from underneath the small man, and the crowd gasped as he appeared to float in mid air.
‘Nothing below’ shouted the magician as he cast a cane back and forth beneath the levitated man. The crowd began to applaud.
There was a sudden loud crack, and instantly the small man fell to the ground with a crash and a cry of ‘ouch’. Somebody started laughing, then someone else and in no time at all the sound of laughter filled the square.
The ragged boy pulled the curtains closed, and slowly the people began to drift away. The following morning the stage was gone along with the ragged boy and Maximillian Montmorencey.
No permanent damage was suffered by the small man, indeed he is still something of a celebrity in the town where he drinks on the story to this day.