@ModernBabaYaga requested a letter from a character in The Night Circus, a book she recently discovered we both love. “If they’re touring with the circus, maybe about something going on with that,” she said. “Stories about random passersby, or drama from fellow performer, or the like.” The physical letter was mailed to her last week!
Close-up A (upper front page):
Close-up B (mid front page):
Close-up C (bottom of front page):
Close-up D (back page, top):
Close-up E (back page, mid):
Mr. Bailey Alden Clarke
53 Cambridge Turnpike
Concord, MA 01742
January 23, 2021
We haven’t met—and I hope I might have that pleasure soon—but I knew your parents when they were children. And your paternal grandfather. And his father, briefly. Maybe that doesn’t qualify us as family in a biological sense, but surely, in some small way, we’re bound to each other. That probably sounds a bit bonkers, but trust me—I’ve become something of an expert in strange and unlikely bonds over the years.
My name is Bailey Alden Clarke, and I’m the proprietor of a most unusual circus. I’d say it’s the oldest ensemble of its type in the world, but honestly, I’m quite certain that there are no others like it. For the safety of the audience and our performers alike, The Night Circus is currently on hiatus, but we expect to resume touring again in late 2021. We’re tentatively scheduled to perform three nights in Mountain View, and I was wondering if my wife and I might trouble you to host us during our stay? I can repay you in stories—I’m confident that the city’s changed considerably since my last visit, and rather dramatically from my first. I read somewhere that it sprang up in 1902. I likely would’ve ventured west sooner than I did, but that was a particularly…involved year for me. My father insisted that the only sensible path was to trap me into managing his farm, but I’d been eyeing Harvard. Some time before, I’d met Poppy, the girl who would become my wife. We—
Well, I can regale you properly later. Like most stories, this is a tale best told in person.
A little bird—a raven, in fact—squawked to me that you enjoy playing games. I’m a fan myself (Truth or Dare notwithstanding). T’was my misfortune not to know him better prior to his passing, but in my youth, I met the most wonderous clockmaker. His name was Friedrick Thiessen; he designed and built the dreamclock that travels with my circus. It’s beautifully-carved, Elaine. He constructed these miniature books with actual turning pages, tiny teapots that pour steam into tiny cups, and—my favorite—a chessboard with self-moving pieces that plays entire games against itself.
Have you watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix? Everyone in my cast and crew speak quite highly of it (except Marco and Widget, but that’s typical). Beth Harmon is fictional, but her character was inspired by a Russian chessmaster named Vera Menchik, who won the first Women’s World’s Championship, and several more after that. A few months before her giant splash landed, she attended one of our performances in Moscow, and I arranged for her to play the dreamclock. The joyful intensity in her eyes…their match happened nearly a century ago, and I still haven’t witnessed its equal. Not even when Kasparov challenged Deep Blue, although Celia and I thoroughly appreciated that battle.
A great many thoughts occupy your mind these days, no doubt. But when time permits—and eventually, it always does—Poppy and I would love the opportunity to finally meet our proverbial…cousin? Sister? Whatever we’ll be to each other. And if your spouse is not otherwise occupied upon our arrival and doesn’t mind, I have a small and gentle flurry of questions to ask them! I understand they’re a magical unicorn, and…let’s just say that it’s the talk of the tent these days. My people and I, we’ve lived rather extraordinary lives (and some of us continue in rather remarkable deaths), but none of us have met a unicorn before, let alone a magical one!
The Night Circus wasn’t formed by my hands, Elaine, but it’s guided by them now…and the thrill has been immeasurable. Walking through those grounds, it never really goes away. I can’t wait, my New Cousin, for you to experience that.
Want to see everything I’ve created in the same place? Because you can do that!