The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters.
- Audrey Hepburn

The Magic Flame (1927) Henry King

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » April 24th, 2008, 10:21 am

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Chapter VI
Where Things Get Even Worse (End)

Tito didn't understand. He stayed beside her for long minutes waiting for an unforeseen event. His hand was in Bianca's; he was waiting for another misfortune to happen. And now he still doubted, fearing that Bianca's mind might be affected. She recovered and briefly in short sentences she told him what had happened with the Chancellor:
- I came to kill you… To kill Cassatti… This man discovered my project… he gave me the dagger… I had to kill you before two o'clock… Two has just struck; I am sure he is behind the door. Tito, don't go! Don't open this door, he is there, I can feel it.
As if she could look through the door, she stayed there, her eyes fixed on it as if she was waiting for death to come in. Tito went towards the door. She stopped him as he was about to open it:
- No, Tito, my love! Don't open it!
Then, calmer, understanding the danger, he came back to her. The former clown was always perfectly in control in the most difficult circumstances. He was a man used to fight and found some unsuspected resources when he was in danger. He asked again Bianca for some explanations. When she told him all the details, he reassured her with a smile:
- Do not worry, he said, they won't catch me this time.
Bianca felt better in front of such composure. As before, she felt calm and quiet like when they were preparing a new dangerous routine in front of the public. He used to tell her before coming on the ring of the Barretti circus:
- Do not worry, little girl! In ten minutes, you'll be the happiest artist in the world.
Again, Tito's smiling courage gave her some strength. She said:
- I'll do anything you ask me, Tito. I'll listen and follow you.
Then he replied simply:
- Let me do it.
They waited for a minute, silent, listening behind the door. Soon, Bianca's hand squeezed Tito's arm a bit more. He blinked indicating:
- Yes, I heard.
Somebody walked in the corridor and was approaching the door. Slowly the door knob turned and the door was ajar. Quickly, Tito took Bianca by the arm and went towards the person who was going to come in. The Chancellor, Count Arnoldi, nearly jumped when he saw the King's face only a few inches for him. He was so used to the Royal customs of respect that he murmured mechanically:
- Sire!
Tito didn't seem to notice his embarrassment:
- Allow me, he said.
And as he talked, he pushed Bianca in front of him so that she could leave between him and the Chancellor. Count Arnoldi, astonished, didn't regain his composure quickly enough. It's only when Bianca reached the corridor that he attempted something to stop her. But Tito was in front of him and addressing Bianca already out, told her:
- Go along this corridor and take the first staircase on the left. Go downstairs, it leads to the park. Once outside, wait for me.
Bianca ran to the exit. Tito stayed with the Chancellor.
- If you allow me, he said, I'd like to take my coat.
This scene wasn't short enough so that the Chancellor couldn't gather, at least in part, what happened. His plans were foiled but he still had the possibility to do it himself. Anyway, he realised he couldn't hesitate. Bianca certainly talked and if he didn't get rid of the King, he would be arrested and sent to prison himself. He went back to Tito and the clown was struck by his face, convulsed with hatred. He burst out laughing:
- Good lord! He said cheekily, you certainly look pretty fed up, my dear Chancellor… You'll need to change that face of yours to go to your rendezvous with your girlfriends!
Then he saw Count Arnoldi raising his right hand, so far hidden under his coat, and saw in it a dark metallic object, a gun.
- Ah! Said Tito, so you want to kill your King, my dear friend?
The Chancellor had to put his cards on the table. His retreat was cut off. He was nevertheless disconcerted by such a level of irony. He replied, clenched teeth, with a very low and menacing voice:
- Yes, I come to kill the King, my King, like you say. As this woman didn't do it, I must act and she will pay.
Tito didn't look nervous in the least and putting his hand on the Chancellor's shoulder, he told him in a pleasant voice:
- In this case, mate, you'll have to look for somebody else; as for today, you are mistaken!
Then, considering the situation very seriously as if he was determined to tell Count Arnoldi some precious secret, he bent towards his ear and pushing his gun away, said:
- I am what you can call an impostor.
The Chancellor turned his head suddenly towards Tito. This revelation didn't seem to affect him that much. He repeated:
- An impostor?
The former clown nodded:
- Yes, my man, an impostor. I am no more King than my father was. I never lived in your blasted country before I came for the first time last month. Is that enough for you? Can you to let me go?
The Chancellor didn't reply and was thinking about the situation. Tito mistook this silence for an approval.
- Then, my man, just let me go and let's stay good friends.
As he was about to go through the door, he saw the barrel of the gun pointed at him.
- One moment!
Count Arnoldi has realised the opportunity and was acting accordingly. He was sure that Tito wasn't joking. He himself had doubts about the King's identity. He was too sharp and too cunning not to have noticed Tito's difficulties with power. But another point was bothering him. If he did let go the man that people and government considered the King, things would become very uneasy in the palace afterwards. Responsible of the security of the Prince, Count Arnoldi would be accused of negligence, or even worse. He told too much to Major Kreizbaum and showed too much hatred for the dynasty. A murder was easy to cover up as he had carefully arranged for another person to carry the full responsibility. But an escape! An elopement! No, he would be the first one accused. Out of curiosity, as well as for his own information, still holding the gun pointed at Tito, he asked him for the truth. The clown told him everything thinking it was the best way to recover his freedom. He told him who he was:
- A clown, mate, I caper about! If you leave me alone, I'll give some free tickets to thank you, one of these days.
Then he told him how he met Cassatti, that is The Prince of Illyria and how he had wanted to seduce Bianca. He told him about the fight and the fall in the abyss that killed Cassatti.
- And, now, you know about as much as I do. Let me go, my fiancée is waiting.
- One more minute.
This time, Tito realised he would have to use some violence. Arnoldi's face was still menacing. There weren't any forgiveness in a man who was fighting for his own security.
- As you are not the King…He started.
- Ah! Exclaimed Tito. Then, you are now persuaded. It's about time!
The Chancellor went on:
- As you are not the King, I arrest you as the murderer of the King.
The situation was tragic for Tito, but, in such circumstances, he could still laugh. He said:
- Alright, he exclaimed, if that's so, and if I have to choose, here it is: I stay King, my dear Chancellor. I ask you to consider me as such.
Count Arnoldi was starting to loose his nerves. The self-confidence of this man troubled him strangely. As a sharp politician, he was starting to wonder if it wasn't better to let things as they were and wait for a better occasion, if ever. His gun was still aimed at Tito, but, he started to lower it. The clown understanding he was getting the better of him took advantage of the situation:
- But yes! I am the King! And I challenge you to prove otherwise. Lower you gun, please. My friend Bianca is now in the garden. If you killed me now, she wouldn't be accused as she has now certainly been seen by the sentries that no doubt you posted at all doors.
The Chancellor knew full well it was the truth and to hear it disturbed him greatly. Tito didn't wait any longer. He knew he had won. He passed in front of the Chancellor and ran away. Before turning in the corridor to take the staircase, he turned around and waved to Count Arnoldi whom he saw standing in the doorway, his useless gun hanging from his hand.

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Postby Ann Harding » May 13th, 2008, 9:41 am

Just one more chapter to go and it will be the end!
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Chapter VII
The Last Order of the King of Illyria

Bianca had found easily the staircase going down to the park and as it was very late, nobody stopped her. In the dark corridors, on the marble landings, there was only weak lighting which was favourable to her escape. She was wondering if she would find the door open. It was her biggest worry and she thought:
- I hope I won't get arrested before I can go out!
Happily, nothing happened as she didn't meet any door: the staircase was landing directly under an open-air colonnade on the side of the park. This huge palace had been built in a distant past without any thought of comfort by an architect who loved art. He copied Versailles with all its defects and lack of convenience. The night wind suddenly struk her face. It was dark and the sky was cloudy. Already an uncertain and freezing dawn started to shine above the tall trees. She gathered her coat tails around her and waited, afraid to get lost in the park and to loose Tito. But, she was afraid to be discovered if she stayed under the colonnade and bending her head to avoid the lower branches, she went under a group of tall trees she noticed nearby. As soon as she arrived there, she heard footsteps crunching the gravel. She got scared. She was afraid to be followed. She went deeper under the trees, but as it had been raining, she slipped on some slimy mud and nearly lost her shoe. As she was bending to pick up her shoe, she felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice whispering in her ear:
- Who goes there?
She stood up. A soldier was in front of her, in the guard's uniform. She saw his bayonet shining in the dark. She didn't know what to answer. She hesitated and suddenly had an inspiration:
- I am waiting for the King, she said.
The soldier didn't act brutally. Only, he still held her by the arm, to avoid her slipping in the mud or to avoid her escaping. He took her back in the path next to the colonnade. Then Bianca saw that he wasn't alone and that two armed sentries were waiting. She shuddered realising she was going to be arrested. From the shadows, a voice pierced the darkness:
- What is it, Danilo?
The soldier who dragged Bianca from under the trees replied clicking his heels:
- We caught her, lieutenant!
- Ah! Perfect!
His tone was reassuring and one could hear the clicking of arms. The lieutenant got up to check the identity of the prisoner. She saw him coming out from a small door inside in the colonnade. A soldier guided him with a small lantern. The young lady was suddenly in full light and the lieutenant stared at her after saluting her.
- Madam, he said, His Excellency Count Arnoldi asked us to arrest you as soon as you came out.
He expressed himself with kindness. But Bianca understood she wouldn't escape and that the orders were strict. Then, the chancellor had betrayed her. Instead of giving her a chance to escape as he promised, he gave orders for her arrest as soon as she left the castle. She wasn't altogether surprised. Didn't she felt unable to trust somebody as devious and scheming as the Count? If she had not resisted earlier, it's only that he served her revenge and she risked her life gladly to kill Cassatti. Things turned out otherwise and now she saw the adventure becoming far more complex than expected. She tried to negotiate:
- Lieutenant, she said, I think there is a mistake. I am waiting here for the King and I think the chancellor's order was meant for somebody else.
The lieutenant shook his head:
- No, he said.
- Are you sure?
She tried to smile confidently, hoping to disturb the soldier with her composure. But the lieutenant shook his head:
- No, he repeated, I am not mistaken. His Excellency Count Arnoldi described you accurately and I can assure you he didn't omit any detail.
Indulgently, he stared at Bianca and examined her beauty. Then, after a sigh, he added apologetically:
- I am truly sorry; Madam, but I must do my duty. Please, come inside the room where you must wait for further orders.
He pointed the way to the door. Bianca looked anxiously at the staircase she came from. Tito was taking a long time to come. What happened upstairs? What would he do if he didn't find her in the park? What happened between him and the Chancellor? She feared Arnoldi could have committed a murder in cold blood and then got somebody arrested in place of him. Wasn't he incredibly scheming? She was destined to be arrested for a murder. She decided to gain time.
- I am suffocating, she said, couldn’t I stay in the open air? I assure you I have no intention to escape.
Turning her head left to right, she added smiling:
- Anyway, how can I? I am so well guarded.
If it had been a man, no doubt, the young officer wouldn't have accepted. But he was gentlemanly and conceited. He decided to grant her desire at least for five minutes.
- Very well, he said, but I mustn't leave you alone.
- I am not asking to be left alone, replied Bianca, winking at him.
- Really?
- You can keep me company.
The officer felt that night duty at the palace offered sometimes nice rewards. He spoke to the soldier holding the lantern who was still there motionless, lighting the scene:
- Put the lantern inside, he said, you're blinding us!
After which, he sent away the men in the same fashion and bowing respectfully in front of Bianca, he told her he would be her only guardian.
- I thank you for that, she said.
Then, the lieutenant added:
- But, please, don't make me regret it!
Bianca didn't think at all about any escape. All she wanted was to stay there and to find a subject for conversation to keep her guardian busy. She had an idea.
- I fear, she said, His Majesty had an accident.
The officer turned towards her and forgetting she was a prisoner, he said, worried:
- What did you say? What makes you think His Majesty could have had an accident?
- I left him earlier with a strange man in his study.
- A man from the palace?
- Yes.
The officer stood in front of her and tried to scrutinise her face which was barely visible in the darkness. Then, he asked her:
- Could you tell me his name?
Bianca hesitated not knowing if she was doing well. Finally, she ventured, as after all even a minor error at this point was unimportant. She risked everything. The officer asked again:
- Who is this man?
- Well, she said, it was the Chancellor. The man you call Count Arnoldi.
The officer moved back:
- Nobody should suspect Count Arnoldi. He gave us our orders and we obey.
- Is he more important than the king?
- He is everything.
Bianca was upset by this answer. She realised that her and Tito were under a powerful authority where even the King was powerless in Illyria. She couldn't say more and felt that the officer wouldn't move to check what happened in the palace. Suddenly, she jumped. On the stone steps, she heard the noise of quick footsteps and the clicking of spurs at each step. She regained some hope. Count Arnoldi didn’t have spurs. A shadow crossed the colonnade and this time she recognised Tito, in uniform and wrapped in large cloak. As she was standing slightly apart, she called:
- Sire, over here!
Tito, who had stopped not knowing where to go, came towards her quickly. The officer stood to attention but when Tito tried to take Bianca away from the palace, he suddenly unsheathed his sabre and put it in front of his King.
- Forgive me, Sire, he said, but I received some strict orders. This person cannot leave the castle tonight.
Tito replied abruptly:
- These orders do not concern me, I imagine?
The lieutenant lowered his voice to answer:
- I beg your pardon Your Majesty. These orders are also for Your Majesty.
- Who gave you these orders?
- His Excellency Count Arnoldi.
- Then, I cannot go out…
- I must stop you…Sire, by every possible means.
- By every possible means?
- Yes…
The lieutenant answered frankly but his voice was trembling. He was caught between his duty and his loyalty to the King. Tito understood he had to be cunning.
- Well then, he said, call Major Kreizbaum. I want to see him immediately.
The Lieutenant was pleased by this diversion. As soon as one of his superiors was called in to take responsibility of this affair, he could disregard it.
- It will be easy, he replied. Major Kreizbaum has a bedroom on this side of the building.
He sent a soldier to look for the aide-de-camp. Major Kreizbaum arrived rather astonished to be roused so suddenly. He looked in a rather bad mood.
- What is this? He grumbled. What a fuss!
But, guided by a soldier, he arrived near Tito, Bianca and the officer. Immediately he stopped grumbling.
- Your Majesty, out, at this hour!
Tito laughed.
- Yes, my dear Major, it's not because I am the King that I am not allowed to walk in the moonlight in my own garden.
- But, stammered the Major taken aback, there isn't any moon!
Tito came near him.
- So much the better! He whispered, don't you see, Major, that I prefer to be in complete darkness?
The aide-de-camp moved his head forward and examined Bianca. He looked at her for a few seconds. He was accustomed enough to the escapades of his former pupil and understood what he saw. He got closer to Tito:
- Well, he exclaimed, I see what it is…Your Majesty is going to the small hunting lodge.
Tito nudged him.
- Precisely.
Major Kreizbaum burst into laughter trying to be discreet, but still pretty loud in the quiet night.
- All right, he said finally, I do not see any reason to prevent you, as soon as Your Majesty is back tomorrow morning for signatures.
- Of course…whispered Tito, who obviously didn't want to tell anything to the Major.
- Good! said the aide-de-camp, I take the entire responsibility. You are allowed permission for tonight.
- You do not fear Anoldi?
- Arnoldi, I know how to silence him.
- Then, added Tito shaking the major's hand, why don't you do it now? If I asked you to arrest him for abuse of power, would you do it?
The major answered gravely:
- I'll obey immediately.
- Then, do it… the Chancellor came into my study with a gun in his hand. And, you will probably find him there searching through my papers.
The Major was radiant. He was so pleased to play a good trick on the Chancellor whom he hated. He gathered his men while Tito and Bianca judging they didn't need to stay any longer, went straight to the garage where the two cars of the King were parked.

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Postby Ann Harding » May 15th, 2008, 10:34 am

Well, this is the final chapter! :D I hope you enjoyed the story!!! 8)

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Chapter VIII
The End of an Adventure

The day was now well advanced. In the small inn besides the road, the sun was now slowly going down behind the vine on the pergola. I looked at Tito Formosa who had not stopped talking and was looking at his wife. She drank some cool Asti Spumante. Probably, he left it to my imagination to guess the end of the story. He didn't feel he needed to describe the end. I stayed a few minutes, dreaming in front of such an extraordinary adventure which sounded like a novel.
- Really, I said, you lived an astonishing adventure. What a subject for a picture!
He turned towards me:
- Isn't it? He said. But the ending is even more surprising.
- Please tell me.
- I don't mind, but, first I would like to order our lunch. Do you know that we've been here for three hours and I haven't stopped talking?
The innkeeper came near us, very pleased to have some clients who seemed to want to take all their meals in his restaurant. He announced a special menu while discreetly listening to Tito Formosa's story. From the kitchen came the smell of roasted chicken and tomatoes. The nice noise of clashing plates and crockery reached us. We all went inside the cool dining room and once we had lunched Tito told us the end of the story.
- Of course, said Tito, we went back to the Barretti circus and Bianca went back on the trapeze while I was clowning around. During a year, Father Barretti took us to all the villages' fairs and increased our fees. Bianca and I had got married. On day, around Modane, while we were preparing the show, Father Barretti came in our dressing room to tell us a man wanted to talk to me. I ask the visitor in and I was astonished to recognise Major Kreizbaum. This nice guy had been such a help for me that I greeted him gladly and shook his hand. I dare say that he showed as much warmth as I did, in spite of the disillusion he must have felt. He looked at me for a minute and shaking his head, told me:
- Well! You really managed to give me quite a few worries!
I thought so, and sometimes, I had wondered what had happened in the palace after I left it. It's obvious that I never returned in Illyria and that the newspapers never gave any news. Nothing, complete silence.
As Bianca and I had to go for the show, we asked the Major to wait for us. After the performance, in a small restaurant where we asked him to come for supper, he told us the aim of his visit:
- I beg you, he said, please come back on the throne as our King!
I guffawed:
- What a joke! You know full well now that it was a mistake and that I wasn't the one you expected! Your King is dead, and I don't miss him in the least. For my part, I am only a simple clown.
Then, I got this disconcerting answer:
- Does it matter?
I was dumbfounded. I could understand a mistaken identity, but to be offered a kingdom knowingly escaped my understanding. The aide-de-camp explained:
- Listen. I know you are not the King. During your stay, I felt a great friendship for you. And between us…
He lowered his voice, still believing –probably- he was in Illyria:
- Between us, you are much better…than the one who was our King. And since you left, everything went from bad to worse. Can you believe it: they even proclaimed the Republic!
- Who did?
- Arnoldi, of course! Do you remember that you asked me to arrest him? Well, believe it or not, he actually got me arrested.
I couldn't help laughing. The Major shook his head:
- It's not funny! He whispered. When I came in the study with my soldiers, Arnoldi was not alone. He had assembled about all the civil servants of the palace as well as officers whom I distrusted. He was making a speech, that so and so! Oh, he was certainly a good speaker! He said some dreadful things about your dynasty…Well, he said that your dynasty was corrupt and that he got rid of you. I heard shouts: Long lives the Republic! They asked me to shout that as well. But, you understand, I thought you were in the hunting lodge having a good…
Embarrassed, he looked at Bianca who smiled:
-...time kissing me, she said.
- Precisely, Madam, so it would have been disloyal to drop Your Majesty in such a moment. I took out my sabre and I shouted: Long lives the King! Behind me, my men did the same. Then, Arnoldi asked the officers around him:
- Arrest this entire clique!
I was arrested, Sire…I meant to say sir. They put me in the State prison where I managed to came out only during an earthquake…
- During an earthquake? I exclaimed, surprised.
- Oh yes! It was a very violent one and destroyed the whole prison killing nearly all the warders. Some prisoners escaped unscathed as they were protected by the thick walls of their cells. Arnoldi actually died during this providential occasion. Your royal place that was –if you remember- next to the prison saw its right wing completely flattened. It was where Arnoldi lived. I gathered a few braves, escaped from the prison like me, and as Illyria was without a government, I decided to restore the monarchy. This is where we are now. I left the temporary government in the hands of a comrade and after searching for you for six months, I have –at last! - found you. Please, tell me you accept to come back on the throne of Illyria. Everybody will think of you as the King and I swear I won't tell them anything.
I shook the major's hand.
- I thank you for the intention, I said, but I'd rather die on the spot rather than go back to Illyria, even in a brand new royal palace. I am sure Bianca shares my feelings.
She did as you can guess. Kreizbaum realised he couldn't do anything else and thought for a moment. Suddenly, committing himself, he hit the table with his fist:
- Well, then! If that's so, I am not going back either! My only hope was that you came back with me. If you refuse, I won't set foot on this corrupted country ever. There is a revolution every two days! Unfortunately, I don't have any money.
Then, we got an idea. Bianca and I were sure enough to have a go, but we needed a manager to discuss our fees. Spontaneously, we offered major Kreizbaum the job.
- Stay with us, I told him, we are going to travel a lot and you are going to be our manager.
He accepted with enthusiasm and we have always been very pleased with his services. I stopped Tito Formosa. A sudden idea came to my mind:
- That's right! I exclaimed, that old man who looks after you property in Beaulieu and spends his days raising dogs…
Tito Formosa burst out laughing:
- You guessed correctly! He cried. It's the Major in person. And Bianca and I love him like a second Father Barretti.
________________
We left the table and when I got in the car which brought us back to Turin, I moved slightly towards Mrs Formosa:
- And you, didn't you regret to disregard a throne?
She smiled and looking at me, said:
- No, sir. I far prefer the trapeze.

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feaito

Postby feaito » May 15th, 2008, 9:53 pm

Bravo!!!! :D :D

Great story, entertaining plot, perfect ending. Thanks for having taken the time and care of sharing this treasure with us.

And the final kiss between the lead actors (from Barbara Worth, the only film I've seen of them both) is a plus!

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Postby Gaucho » May 31st, 2008, 11:31 pm

What a labor of love this was - thanks very much, Christine!

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » June 1st, 2008, 2:42 am

Hello Gaucho! I am glad you enjoyed it. :) Are you a Ronald Colman fan by any chance? I noticed your avatar (picture of Colman in The Unholy Garden. :wink: ).


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