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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feaito

Postby feaito » March 9th, 2008, 12:39 pm

This Mordaunt Hall critique makes me want to see this film even more! I really would like this Silent to be discovered somewhere, complete and in good shape.

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » March 16th, 2008, 12:58 pm

Here is the beginning of Part 2 after a little pause to catch up with the translation. I made a new banner for this final part. Enjoy!

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Part Two

Chapter I
King Harlequin's New Residence (Part 1)

Tito didn't manage to escape in spite of his strong desire to do so. Up to the frontier with Illyria, he had been kept under very close guard by his companions. He also quickly understood that the Italian police kept an eye on him and that all the policemen, in civvies or uniform, which went along the compartment, while keeping their distance, could have intervened at the first call of the colonel and the embassy secretary. It was a dead-end situation. With his small knowledge of politics, he was aware that sometimes governments which are at odds can help each other secretly while hating each other publicly. So he let himself be lead and didn't even try to escape. On top, he found that the situation offered an immediate advantage for his own personal security. He was feeling at ease, protected by those whom, if they knew who he was, would have sent him to prison. Once in Illyria, everything changed like in a variety show. He was showed an even greater respect, but the chances of escape became even slimmer.
He was saluted by mayors with top hats, station masters, staff officers and his suite increased by a dozen people. He looked at them alarmed, not knowing exactly what to do, shaking hands randomly and smiling melancholically while trying to look at ease. But he knew it was only a pale imitation of princes' good education. He wondered what would have happened if the official language of Illyria had not been Italian. At least, he could understand with ease the welcoming phrases. If the country he was about to rule (at least in title) had been in Russia, Sweden or Asia Minor, things would have been more difficult. Tito acknowledged that and thanked God for it. It's only in the small hours that he reached the royal palace, situated in the centre of a gloomy capital which looked pretty forbidding to him. His arrival went unnoticed. The daylight was slow to come and a dark greyness came from the sky; nobody was up yet. It was infinitely better for him.
He was showed the way, like a prisoner, through a narrow door on a surrounding wall of incredible height. Then he reached a big and gloomy palace that looked like a prison after crossing through a huge park covered with dew. Then, he was in the palace itself. He saw vast galleries that reminded him of former visits to museums. He wondered if kings still lived surrounded by paintings and statues and he was beginning to worry he would have to sleep in a marble bed.
- This is Your Majesty's bedroom.
Was he supposed to recognise it? It was a problem that needed to be solved instantly. He just nodded vaguely as if he was happy to have arrived safe and sound while being worried to leave his previous ordinary life. He grumbled:
- Well, then, I'm going to lie down.
A voice whispered behind him:
- I must warn Your Majesty that he needs to be up in one hour.
He didn't know the person who just spoke. He turned around to have a better look at the man. He saw a tall austere man with a forward chin, a severe glance, only a few hairs left on his head and dressed in a perfectly cut jacket and pale grey trousers. He wondered:
- Who the devil is this man? I don't like the look of him.
Another character, present during this ceremony, helped him out when he had to ask a dangerous question. It was an officer with gold brocade, but who looked good-humoured. A bit portly, he smiled at Tito, as if he was pleased to see him again. There were probably many happy memories between him and the prince, but, obviously the clown didn't have a clue why he smiled so amicably. Then the officer talked in a cheerful tone that contrasted happily with the dryness of the man in the jacket.
- My lord chancellor is right, Sire. You need to be up in one hour; there is a lot to do, today! But, stop worrying, the following days, you'll be able to enjoy a full night's sleep and rest during the day.
Tito thanked the officer with a friendly nod. But, as he didn't know how to call him, he just removed his coat and smiled. The chancellor looked startled by the new king of Illyria's eccentric way of dressing. Tito was still wearing his circus clothes, totally lacking in elegance. He didn't had time to change them during the journey.
-Your Majesty, he said, wanted certainly to disguise himself to escape us. Are you sad to be here?
Tito replied with great presence of mind, thinking that this observation could help him in the future to explain his grumpy mood:
- You said it, Mister Chancellor; I am too polite to contradict you.
The officer burst out laughing. He liked his ingenuousness and sincerity. But he still needed to mention his future sovereign what would be his duty.
- Now, he said, you cannot have fun anymore. Sire, you'll find here the new uniform of Your Majesty's guards. You are, of course, their general in command. You won't recognise it as since you left, we changed about five to six times. Myself, I am not quite sure what the uniform was like during your time. But, be reassured, the valets will help you to dress up.
He said all that with friendliness. The officer was really direct with his king.
The chancellor pursed his lips.
- I see that Major Kreizbaum, your aide-de-camp, he said, thought about everything, Sire. Allow us now to retire. At 10 o'clock in the morning, we'll fill Your Majesty in what happened during his long absence outside the Kingdom of Illyria. And we'll ask him for a few temporary signatures.
The first audience was over.
The chancellor left backwards, followed by the major and they both showed the greatest respect to Tito. Yet, the former clown acknowledged that it would be even less easy to get out of here than from the train that brought him here. He was King, probably, undisputed master of Illyria, but it also meant that he was himself prisoner and that all freedom was abolished for a long time. He didn't like the Chancellor. He found him unpleasant. The aide-de-camp impressed him favourably but created some worry as well. He thought:
- What am I going to tell him if he talks about the past? He knew me from an early age, the crafty devil! What is he going to say?
Fortunately, the aide-de-camp rarely asked questions and preferred to speak about himself. Tito went to bed and fell asleep. It was Major Kreizbaum who came around 10 o'clock to wake up the king and to make sure he got up. He was then delivered like precious goods to a barber and a manicurist who transformed Tito into a tidy person while he didn't show any kindness to help them. The manicurist especially was surprised to find the King of Illyria with such meaty muscular hands, and deformed fingers through intense exercise at the trapeze and nails clipped so short. He said nothing, of course, because he was well behaved, and he thought best in front of such an important master not to show any surprise. It was just as well for Tito. The major took advantage to chat with him and filled Tito in a lot of events he was rather pleased to learn. He tried to remember everything, just in case.
- Do you remember, Sire, said Major Kreizbaum, of you last departure from the royal palace?...When you ran away through the little door at the end of park?...Midnight? I always thought it was an affair of the heart for this escape?....between us, I helped you a little bit with this cute flower girl, didn’t I?....
He laughed his heart out just thinking of his former role, when he was in charge of his beloved prince's good fortunes. And he loved him truly and even encouraged his fancies, even they were disreputable. Tito should have answered something but he had a good alibi: the barber was holding his chin as he was shaving him. His silence could be interpreted as some fear to be cut. Anyway, the aide-de-camp always spoke for his own pleasure, to recall sweet past memories.
- Really, Sire, I don't know if I would have recognised you. You've changed and if you permit me, for the best.
He was pleased to find that the King delivered more than what the prince had promised. Taking advantage of a moment when the barber was sharpening his razor, as the clown's beard was hard, Tito asked, to clear up his mind and to prepare his future life:
- In what way did I change?
The major thought for a minute:
- But…in everything! …He said, Your Majesty is stronger, his shoulders are broader and his face is more masculine.
He looked a bit more closely to examine Tito's face tilted back on the barber's chair.
- I think that even, he added, yes, your hair look thicker. I am absolutely sure. And mostly…
He stopped.
- Mostly? Asked Tito.
- It's your behaviour that has changed the most. It's astonishing! If you had stayed the same as before, you would have already thrown at me all the objects in this room…yes, Sire, I dare to say, you would have wrecked the room!

To be continued

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Last edited by Ann Harding on March 18th, 2008, 4:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Ann Harding » March 18th, 2008, 4:38 am

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Chapter I
King Harlequin's New Residence (part 2)

Suddenly serious, he bowed:
-I congratulate Your Majesty for this complete transformation of Your Highness' persona.
Tito grumbled a few indistinct words which might sound like polite and satisfied thanks. And as the barber was waiting, razor in hand, he signalled him to continue. Major Kreizbaum took advantage to retire to go back to the Chancellor, Count Arnoldi, who was waiting in the council room for the King. He didn't have the necessary power to pester the King during his shaving. When Major Kreizbaum arrived, he was full of enthusiasm.
- Hey! Fancy that, Chancellor, he insinuated as soon as he joined the Count, I've got some good news!
He waited for a minute, striving for effect, and said:
- My dear Count, the King has changed. He is unrecognizable!
The chancellor was walking around in the vast room, his hands behind his back, lowering his head.
-Yes, the Major went on, it's extraordinary. I cannot believe it. He is calm, serious. My word! He became likeable.
He laughed at his own joke. Count Arnoldi shrugged and went on walking. Then, without looking at the Major, he spoke in a dry and bitter tone, a tone that showed his hatred for the returned prince who seemed better physically and morally.
- Likeable! Really, you surprise me major! This race never changes. They are fixed for eternity: like father, like son! Think about it. Did he even ask you how his father died?
The Major looked surprised:
- Upon my word, no. he whispered. He didn't say a word about it. He doesn't seem to know.
The chancellor sniggered.
- You see!... And you pretend he is better, your…your prince charming?... You are wrong, my dear Major, the whole family is ferocious and ungrateful. It's a dynasty of rascals.
The aide-de-camp stood up straight, raising his highbrow and his voice became hard:
- My Lord Chancellor, I cannot tolerate such words. We are the king's servants and we mustn't forget it, especially within this palace's walls where we made freely our vows to serve the King.
The chancellor whistled a tune under his breath, showing that he didn't care one bit about the respect for a monarch. He acted according to his own conscience.
- Really! He mocked. Do you really think that we should kneel in front of a boy who spent his life womanizing and killing husbands?...If you think I am not aware of what he did in Italy, France and Germany, you are wrong! My police is excellent, my dear Kreizbaum, better than yours.
He went on whistling. But the Major couldn't accept an opinion which he considered disloyal during service. He said in a strong voice:
-It doesn't matter if the prince did what he did. I only acknowledge that he is back and at his post. It's enough for a soldier. For the rest, there are ministers.
He stopped as the door was opening. A regulation officer stood up to arms, motionless like a puppet squeezed in a pale blue uniform and announced the King. The Chancellor took on again his impassive attitude and stood by the table while the aide-de-camp went to the door to guide in the new sovereign. There was a respectful minute of silence. And then Tito came in like one of those shy lions who are afraid to come into a circus' ring when they are blinded by the spotlights. He looked around, observing this new environment and the aide-de-camp asked:
- You don't see any changes in this palace, do you Sire?
- No, replied Tito, nothing at all.
He would have been extremely embarrassed to find any changes. He approaches the table led by the Major and sat on the armchair. He looked at the scattered papers on the table wondering what to do. Taking advantage of the silence, the Chancellor came near Major Kreizbaum, motionless at the end of the room and whispered to his ear:
- You're right, he has changed.
He paused and added:
- From bad to worse…
If the Major could have crushed the Chancellor on the spot he would have done it. He felt for the prince -however he was- a real friendship like a comrade in arms. Was he not his mentor in the olden days? And while he was a dignified and honest man in his service, he had tolerated the prince's many misdemeanours. One gets attached to a young man because your forgiveness for his mischief rather than for the joys he gives you. And also, he was still astonished by the prince's moral change which suddenly shook the idea he had of him. He gazed at him sitting at his table trying to look serious and austere. Major Kreizbaum thought:
- He thinks of the affairs of State…He is thinking about what he is going to do. Really, the Chancellor is an idiot. We'll have a good King.
Then, he noticed that the King's tunic wasn't buttoned properly. It was for him an unforgivable fault. Quickly, he ran and he buttoned himself the tunic according to regulations while telling him in a tone of affectionate reproach:
-Sire, I told you this new uniform would surprise you, but, in the past, you cared more about your uniform.
Tito tried to smile. The Chancellor listened to all this joviality which infuriated him with deliberate coldness. His impatience was visible. He felt himself no friendship for the heir of a family he had always despised and he served him reluctantly. Interrupting this futile discussion about a uniform, he went to the King's table.
-All these papers must be signed, he said. Their dispatch cannot be differed.
He handed the quill to Tito. The clown felt a sudden heat running through his temples; he blushed violently and his heart pounded. To sign! It was easy to say, but under what name should he sign this impressive document he was given? All he knew about Illyria was pretty vague. He had learned in the past that it was a small nation created after the war when it was given the freedom to rule itself. He didn't know the name of the capital, its exact geography or even the number of inhabitants. He took the quill mechanically. Everything was going to fall apart unless a miracle happened. It was pretty improbable but that miracle happened.
- By the way, said the Chancellor, bending above his shoulder, Your Majesty hasn't told us yet under which name he choose to rule?
The major hit his forehead:
- That's true! He added, has Your Majesty chosen his new name?...We haven't talked about it yet. Do you want to keep your usual first name?
Tito looked up; at least, he could gain time.
- It seems fairly natural. He said. What do you advise?
The Major, eager to be useful, went on:
- We need to know the kind of policies you are going to develop. If you want to govern according to your father's principles, it would be best to keep his name. Unless, you took the name of one of your ancestors?
- Ah! Said Tito, It's very wise. I ask you again: which name do you advise? It depends on what the country thinks.
The Chancellor and the Major looked at each other, and after an embarrassing moment, the major said the sentence which allowed the clown to escape his fateful end.
- To be honest, he said, I would rather Your Majesty chose a new name. You must know as well as I do that your august father (as well as all his line) committed some serious political errors which mustn't be recalled. If you want my own honest opinion…?
- I beg you, said Tito who was gasping for breath during this long speech
- Well, then! I would sign the edicts with your third name: Rudolph. No King in your family was ever called Rudolph. It will give a good impression among the people. He will look at you favourably and think of you as a liberal.
Tito couldn't hide completely a half-smile. His new adopted family sounded fairly disreputable.
- Crikey! He thought, my ancestors are not well thought of in the region. One day, if I have the time, I'll read their biography.
Then, aloud, he added:
- Very well. I thank you for this advice. I'll sign as Rudolph as you seem to like it. I do not have any preference myself.
He tried out this new signature on few blank sheets of paper and was astounded to hear the Major exclaiming behind him:
- Ah! This time, I do recognise perfectly your writing. That's one thing which hasn't altered in you. Look at it, Chancellor, this is really our prince. His writing hasn't changed, he still closes his a but doesn't finish his m.
The chancellor agreed very dryly.
- It's remarkable! He said in a curious tone.

To be continued

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Postby Ann Harding » March 19th, 2008, 4:34 am

A short instalment that will close chapter I.
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Chapter I
King Harlequin's New Residence (end)

Tito signed a few papers under the name Rudolph, after thinking that fate was a great provider and that providence in these circumstances probably guided his hand.
He discovered subsequently that a King's job, if it was less complicated that he thought, was nevertheless incredibly busy. Not a single minute was unused. They spoke of the coronation, it was essential. They elaborated a programme, or rather several trial programmes which consisted in several days. Tito started to wonder if he would have any time to sleep during those days, but the major assured him his rest would be respected.
In the afternoon, the King had to receive -carefully selected- popular delegations, go all over town in a carriage, salute the governor, review a cavalry regiment and be crowned the next day. Finally, his wedding –yes, absolutely, his wedding- was forecast for the next month. They didn't even tell him the name of the bride, or even her nationality; he had a vague gesture, meaning that he didn't care. In fact, there was another ten days before it and Tito swore he wouldn't be King beyond that.
Then all these things were settled in definite way while he didn't even utter a single objection. The Chancellor himself seemed surprised. He didn't expect such docility. He remained beside the King after the Major left, called by his service. He observed him. Like the aide-de-camp, he started to find that the last member of the dynasty had really altered in temper.

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Postby Ann Harding » March 21st, 2008, 4:06 am

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Chapter II (part 1)
A Visit

Shortly after lunchtime, when Tito was smoking in his study –not knowing what else he could do- and dreaming of extraordinary and impractical projects, Count Arnoldi came to him with an affected composure.
- Sire, he said, I must warn you, this young woman came again.
Tito looked up. A vague hope shone in his eyes. Indeed, he didn't know who this woman was, but he thought it could be Bianca. She was still in all his thoughts. A great hope filled his heart. Everything became luminous and sunny. Bianca! All his plans had only one aim to find Bianca. Trembling with emotion, he asked the Chancellor:
- How is she?
Count Arnoldi opened his arms meaning he couldn't describe the lady:
- It's a lady…a well born lady, he said, dressed in mourning….in deep mourning…She insists to meet you. She calls herself an intimate of Your Majesty. She already came yesterday evening.
Tito couldn't avoid a shudder. If it was her? If she had come up to there?
- I'd like very much to see her, he said, trying to hide his impatience with an indifferent tone while wanting to rush the Chancellor so that he would act quicker for once in his life.
Count Arnoldi bowed:
- I am going to let her in immediately. It will take only a minute, Your Majesty.
He must have made some arrangements as it took only half-a-minute between the time he left the room and when the lady came in. Tito was instantly disappointed; his face looked anxious. It wasn't Bianca.
The woman in front of him was beautiful, dressed in long black veils and looked at the King in such affection that the former clown was embarrassed and wondered what new worry was going to overwhelm him. She curtseyed deeply with ease which showed her regular attendance at court. The Chancellor, as soon as he saw the lady in presence of the King, closed the door quietly. Tito looked relieved as, at least, this discussion could stay private, if by any chance it didn't turn out well. He had to think ahead.
-My lady, he asked, I'd like to know if your visit is not a mistake?...
He stopped short, not knowing what to say after this carefully produced beginning. The woman glanced at him, looking surprised and worried.
- Oh! she said, how changed your voice is! What happened to you, since our…affair?
Then, probably even more surprised by the King's eyes when she spoke, she went on:
- And why do you look at me as if you didn't know me?
Tito didn't know what to answer, he mumbled, embarrassed, realising it was the greatest danger he had to face since he arrived in Illyria:
- That is, to tell you the truth, I do not remember if I ever met you.
A great pain showed on her face and was shortly replaced by a kind of anger. Her nostrils twitched and her lips trembled. She stood up straight and looking contemptuously at that King who wanted to forget her love:
- Really! You do not remember what happened at the Savoia Hotel, no doubt? You do not remember how my husband and you…
She didn't finish the sentence; she sobbed. Once again, she was caught in an unconquerable emotion and came back begging towards the one who had caused her the greatest torments of her life, her now broken life. But, Tito could no guess that this lady had paid a visit to Count Cassatti on the very day when he went to the circus. It was that lady's husband that the Count had killed so promptly and then had managed to accuse somebody else of the murder. The Count was lucky with his enemies. But, naturally, Tito didn't know that. He stayed there standing, his hands behind his back, trying desperately to guess that lady's thoughts which moved him deeply. He went on:
- Once again, I don't understand. If you were more precise, I could perhaps remember…there must be some mistake.
Suddenly, worried, he moved back. The lady came towards him, slowly, examining his face. So far, nothing seemed abnormal to her. She had accepted naturally Tito as the King. And suddenly, she had some suspicion about him. It was rather difficult to deceive a woman who was madly in love with you. She stammered:
- But…but…
Tito held his hand out.
- Do no come any near, he said, what's happening to you? Why do you look at me this way?
She was still scrutinizing him, every feature of his face was examined and an utter amazement showed on her face. She whispered, feeling dizzy:
- I don't know, I must be confused…
He tried to smile.
- Don't you recognise the King?
It was this that troubled her. She had doubts. She hesitated for a minute, uncertain of what she saw, careful not to say anything compromising, her eyelids trembling, her fingers gripping her coat without rest. She finally explained:
- There is something…I do not recognise you…You're not Carlo…you are…another one…but…you are not Carlo!
This time, Tito was deeply troubled. He desired so much to end this mistake ever since he was on the throne; he felt a violent anxiety. He was afraid to be unmasked. For him, it would mean death. He regained his composure.
- Please, recover, Madam, he said in a gentle tone, you must understand that my present duty forces me to some diplomatic omissions.
Tears filled her eyes. The woman dared to answer in a very low voice as if her whole heart was breaking as a result of such violent emotion:
- Between us, is it possible?
She still hoped; she couldn't believe her own eyes.
- We must, went on Tito, duty orders us to do it, believe me.
The lady regained her inquiring appearance as if a question was burning her lips. She paused and asked:
- Do you even remember my name?
He tried to keep his composure, and ironically said:
- What a joke! I know full well who you are. Do not ask me to say it.
She insisted as if she wanted to open a trap under his feet:
- And my husband's name?
- Your husband's?
- Yes.
Then she added in a very low voice:
- The name of the man you killed.
He jumped as if he had received a violent shock and the young lady noticed his worry. As he didn't answer, she went back to the door and with a strange light in her eyes, she added:
- And yet, earlier, you assured me you'd never seen me before.
He blushed a bit. She went on:
- There are things which I cannot understand. I think I know a secret that I must keep. On your side, I know it will be kept…Sire, can you allow me to retire?
Very straight, walking quickly, she went to the door while Tito stepped in her direction to stop her.
- Madam…
But, he didn't go any further and his arm stopped in its movement. It was better to leave fate take care of this. He just bowed in front of the visitor in return to her homage. She left the room very straight, after a simple quick nod. Tito stayed alone, very embarrassed.

To Be Continued
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Postby Ann Harding » March 25th, 2008, 11:56 am

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Chapter II (end)
A Visit

What was going to happen now? What would the lady say in the palace? He didn't know if he should be alarmed or relieved by this visit. He was eager to go back to a normal life, but if he was accused of the King's murder, what would he answer? His sentence was perhaps already decided. He had never been before so anxious. Every second felt like a pall on his heart. He wondered if his fate was not already fixed and if he was not going to be arrested by the same men who brought him there. He went to the window, trying to look at ease. Everything was normal in the palace courtyard and Tito saw the guards pacing up and down in slow motion. How everything felt so melancholic! One could hear the noise of the rifle hitting the ground when their position was rectified by an officer. Yes, everything was quiet, very quiet and nothing allowed him to foresee the future. He felt as if all nature was against him. He came back to the door, impatient to know, but he didn't hear anything.
The lady had just ended a discussion with the Chancellor. Count Arnoldi had waited patiently for the visitor's exit. He liked spying. He loved to discover secrets that gave him an advantage over somebody. When he saw the lady leaving the King's office, he went to her but didn't ask any question. He noticed that she was ready to talk first. She accosted the Chancellor and her first sentence was significant:
- Excellency, she said, I asked earlier to see the King.
Not a single muscle moved on the Chancellor's face. Not a wink from his eyelids. He said simply:
- You saw him.
But he observed her closely. She shook her head:
- It's not your King.
Count Arnoldi didn't move. Was he waiting for such disclosure? Was he prepared? Nobody could say it. He replied while bowing deeply to hide his aroused interest:
- I beg your pardon, Madam, your are mistaken. It is our King.
The lady probably was aware of the court customs enough to know that one shouldn't expect to impose an opinion when nobody wanted to admit it. She had been trained by her husband, a diplomat. However, she thought it best to tell what came in her mind, even if she had to suffer the consequences.
- Did you have an idea that your King could be an impostor?
The Chancellor replied coldly:
- Never, Madam.
And nobody could ever say if he was lying. It was more than enough for Count Cassatti's former mistress. She understood she had nothing to gain with this discussion. She had to admit the situation and the replies she got. Like everybody else, she had to give in to political arguments and try to forget. She thanked the Chancellor with a small curtsey.
- Very well, she whispered, tamed, if you say he is the King…
- He is, madam…
- I think I should leave then.
Gentlemanly, he showed her to the door.
- I'll see you out.
But, in Count Arnoldi's mind, a thought became clearer and also the desire to keep near him somebody who could be useful some day. In his deep-rooted hatred for the royal power and above all for the dynasty ruling the country, he judged it was useful to remember such details. He begged the lady to leave her name and address.
- Absolutely confidentially, of course, he added in a low voice, you can be assured of my greatest secrecy. Besides, if you want to tell me everything now, you'll be talking to a friend. Tell me what stroke you about our King. I am listening.
The lady smiled imperceptibly. She was too sharp to expose in such a way her doubts. She knew too well that one doesn't gain anything by meddling in court affairs. She was sure the man she saw tonight wasn't the one she held in her arms in the past. She accepted this cruel disappointment even if her heart was broken. Royal affairs do not resemble ordinary affairs; there are sometimes dangerous and painful. One never knows the end of it. She refused to answer the Chancellor and to give him the information he was asking indiscreetly. She left as she came, discreet and incognito. Nobody could do anything against her. She had been allowed in the palace to see the King because she provided guarantees on her personality. It was useless to try to get more information from her. The Chancellor showed her to the door, more surprised than he thought. But he had to give up the idea to discover more.
When he went back to Tito, he examined carefully his master, trying to guess his secret.
- And yet, this is the man we were waiting for, he thought.
And as he was not allowed to question him, he remained quiet, waiting for a better occasion. He went on with the ordinary affairs of the Kingdom.
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Postby Ann Harding » March 31st, 2008, 10:33 am

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Chapter III
In the City's Streets (Part 1)

Tito had been king for fifteen days. He was crowned three days after his arrival in the capital and this momentous event was accomplished in a completely normal way. Tito, dazed by the noise and the unusual bustle in the palace, had been taught the ceremonial by a master of the protocol who made him rehearsed every gesture of the coronation and the following reception. So he didn't make any mistake during these rites. He spoke little, putting all his energy in the will he had not to be discovered before he could escape. Every day, he thought about this liberating moment. One morning, after signing, he went into the park as if he wanted to enjoy some solitude under the huge trees and in the wood's silence. The park was superb. It was a vast domain surrounding the castle on three sides and running through its lawns and undergrowth, the former clown enjoyed a moment of happiness and freedom. Soon, reaching the limits of the park, he noticed the wall, very high rising hidden by the thick foliage. He went along the wall, hoping to find an exit. He was determined to escape this constraint, this unbearable life and to find again Bianca. He reached a small door. He found it unlocked and push it to go out. A sudden hope filled him. Slowly, he pushed it, checking if there wasn't anybody behind him. He didn't see anybody, nothing was moving in the undergrowth. He slipped his body through the narrow opening. And all of a sudden, a thunderous ovation rang in his ears, scaring him greatly by its unexpected suddenness:
- Long live the King!
He jumped and looked around. It was a small square. Some soldiers were there to guard the hidden door, as probably nobody ever used it; they had relaxed their service and were playing with balls with some of the local Illyrians.
- Long live the King!
Tito realised he was popular, but, naturally, he didn't feel any pleasure. The sentries, instead of going back to their posts, mingled with the people to avoid the consequences of their desertion. Though Tito didn't think at all about the respect of the service. He was too tormented for that. Infinitely embarrassed, he replied to the ovation of the bowlers, the women and young girls who had come there and were chatting under the canopy of a small restaurant, established there for a while, no doubt to entertain the leisure time of the royal guards. His escape attempt was a complete failure. He went back slowly in the park, understanding now how hard it would be to escape his fate. His usual and discouraging life went on.
In the morning, Tito signed numerous documents under his borrowed name, and in the afternoon, after an official lunch he presided over according to the protocol, he went for a drive in a carriage, in one area of the capital. It provided him, at least, with a bit of merriment. As he discovered this new country, he recovered his cheerfulness. Sometimes, forgetful, he was surprised with a little too much ingenuity:
- What a strange monument!
Major Kreizbaum who usually came with him, looked as astonished as he was, when listening to such a remark. It was after all rather strange.
- But, he said, it sounds as if you've never seen it! It's the column which was erected in homage to your grandfather.
Tito regained his composure quickly and replied nonchalantly:
- Oh yes, of course! Only, I didn't remember it that tall. One looses his memory quickly in exile.
It was fortunately very small problems. He preferred to go out with the Major rather than the Chancellor. With the Officer, noting was important as he didn't notice small details and nuances. It was different when the chancellor took his place in the royal carriage. One day, off guard, Tito asked what a building was. The chancellor replied:
- It's the royal military school for cadets.
He replied watching his master out of the corner of his eye:
- You studied there for twelve years, Sire!
Tito had the presence of mind to reply:
- You're telling me!
And the event was over, at least, he hoped so, as the Chancellor didn't add anything. Tito wasn't aware of the events happening among the people. Shut off in the Royal palace, having only news from the outside through the civil servants, that is the chancellor, the aide-de-camp and a few ministers. He didn't know what was happening in the kingdom. In the morning, when he was signing the official documents, he could gather that all wasn't as well as it seemed to be. Since his coronation, he has signed a dozen sentences to death or life inprisonment, for crime of conspiracy or assassination attempt against the King. He never had though the police could be so efficient, but the Chancellor reassured him:
- We arrest people randomly. We have to purge this country of all trouble makers. There are many reforms to organise.
In his conscience, actually, Count Arnoldi got signature for execution orders only reluctantly. In his heart he approved anybody that could get rid of this hated dynasty which oppressed him for so long.

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Postby Ann Harding » April 5th, 2008, 10:12 am

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Chapter III
In the City's Streets (end)

The Chancellor wasn't particularly patriotic; on the contrary, he only thought of his own personal ambition and hated with his whole soul his masters.
Tito was interested by this work. Not that he loved blood and nor to sign sentences. On the contrary, he took great care to abuse his Royal power by giving a lot of Royal pardons. Thanks to him, a lot of people were saved, whether they deserved it or not. He read the lawyer's reports with great care and tried to bring some fairness in his justice. The files he received were drawn up well; one could find in them a synopsis of the judicial inquiry and the anthropometric pictures of the convicts. One morning, Count Arnoldi who had just given him the files of recently convicted criminals was surprised to see the King staring for a long time at one convict's picture. The people convicted for serious offence had the favour –so to speak- of a special red file. He approached the King surreptitiously and looking above his shoulder, he discovered that the convict was a young woman. Then, he was less surprised. He would have been even less surprised if he had known that this lady was a young acrobat named Bianca. He thought his master, whose taste for women was known to him, was admiring the girl's pure features and regretted to see such a beautiful woman condemned. He left Tito to read quietly the brief synopsis of the judgement. They were only a few lines soberly written.
'The accused, said the document, gave a false identity: Nina Valli. Premeditated assassination attempt against our King. Discovered by policeman Pietro when during a royal visit, following the coronation, she showed a disturbing attitude. She carried a wreath of flowers as well as a loaded gun. She answered very subtly. She denied attempting to kill to the King. She said she wanted to throw flowers at him. Doesn't belong to any political party, or to any organisation of conspirators. The tribunal showed some leniency.
Condemned: Five years imprisonment. Lawyer: Balestreri.'

The lawyer's plea followed as well as a report of the questioning. Tito was going to read it, highly interested, worried and tormented, but Count Arnoldi touched his shoulder. He had to sign quickly as many cases were waiting. Then, Tito decided he couldn't let Bianca go in prison for years. The occasion he had been waiting for had just happened completely by chance. He didn't have to look for Bianca; she was coming to him although in circumstances he didn't quite understand. Did she want to kill him or throw flowers? He asked Count Arnoldi:
- I want to know what happened exactly regarding this girl. The sentence is not enough for me; I would like a personal inquiry.
The Chancellor wasn't aware of this case, or at least before the King, he pretended not to know it.
- I do not know exactly, he replied, but, if Your Majesty wishes it, I'll inquire.
Tito insisted:
- I ask you. And quickly please.
He bit his lips, impatiently and added:
- Where is she, now?
- Imprisoned in the fortress, I imagine.
- I want to see her.
- I don't know if that's possible.
Tito lost his temper. For the first time, he showed some anger. If he was King, shouldn't he be obeyed? Until now he showed complete indifference to the various vetoes coming for various civil servants in the palace. Determined to succeed, he asked the Chancellor to bring the girl at once. She had not received a heavy sentence so her crime was not that serious. He wasn't in any danger. The Chancellor listened to the quarrel in silence, eyes cast off and already an audacious plan was developing in his mind. When Tito finished, he bowed:
- I am going to get some information at once, Sire. And, even if that's against the rules, I'll see to it.
Tito grumbled:
- I hope so!
He was suffocating. He unbuttoned his tunic with rage as this discussion made him warm. Impatient, he waited for Arnoldi's return. At last, he was going to see Bianca. From this moment, life felt wonderful. This palace which had felt like a prison suddenly looked beautiful and quiet. Out of the window, he saw the blue sky and the park's foliage moving gently in the wind. He exclaimed:
- What a beautiful sky!
To pass the time, he asked for Major Kreizbaum to play dominoes with him. The Major accepted. His service wasn't too busy. He was probably the only one who appreciated the new King and to show him a real friendship. He sat down in front of him, with a real pleasure.
- I'm going to beat you hollow, exclaimed Tito. We are going to play until one of us has to give up or to die in action!
He started:
- Double six…
The Major didn't have any six and Tito was really amused as if he had won a great victory. It was the first time he laughed so heartily since he had been on the Illyrian throne.

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Postby Ann Harding » April 13th, 2008, 8:53 am

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Chapter IV
The Criminal (part 1)

The fortress was next to the palace or rather the palace was just a part of the fortress, surrounded by a double wall. In this country, revolutions were frequent and many dynastic changes happened violently. So the Kings were surrounding themselves with lots of precautions within the deep walls of the palace and with troops to boot. 'With a wall and a sabre, said the late King, that's the only way to live.' Count Arnoldi went through various secret passages and a few corridors to enter the part of the palace where dangerous criminals of State -or allegedly so- were kept. His high function opened all the doors as he was higher than the King himself. The day was great for him. Wasn't it a wonderful occasion to help him in his secrets designs while not running any risk? When the King asked him to see this convicted woman, the Chancellor immediately realise he could take advantage of such a foolish act if this woman had indeed premeditated a crime. He took the file and read it carefully. He was immediately convinced the prisoner must have had serious reasons for killing the King. She didn't belong to any revolutionary organisation… She did it on her own. It impressed him deeply. He didn't believe the story of the flowers and he thought they were there only to hide the gun. He guessed she wanted to kill him not for political reasons, but, solely to satisfy a personal revenge. Perhaps she was a victim or one of the numerous lovers of Count Cassatti. As she was alone, he didn't have to fear any denunciation from fellow conspirators. He had to take advantage of such unexpected stroke of luck. While looking at her picture, taken by the police, the Chancellor thought:
- Yes, she is rather beautiful into the bargain. It's probably why the King noticed her.
- Halt!
The count arrived at the secret prison and was stopped by the sentry. He had to talk to the officer who, alone, had the power to let him in. It was a pure matter of form and was over in a few seconds. Count Arnoldi was introduced to the lady in question. As he was a womanizer himself, before he spoke, he admired her with an expert eye.
- Goodness me! The police photographs really didn't capture the original at all!
He walked around Bianca who was waiting during this inspection, resigned to her fate. She waited until this strange character addressed her. She was resolved to remain silent and not to give more details than what she told the police. She kept her conscience for herself.
-Young lady, His Majesty is showing some interest for you.
Count Arnoldi said this in a semi-ironical tone; but, he was struck by the tone of the convict's answer:
-I have an even greater one for His Majesty.
There was a short silence, after which, with the most benevolent tone, the Chancellor asked the girl to sit down, not like a convicted criminal arrested for a crime of lese-majesty, but as if she was a great patriotic heroine with a worthy cause. He knew how to be insinuating and smooth, like a natural diplomat. On top, he understood he had to show some method to reach this enigmatic convicted girl. He spoke while leafing through the pages of her file to keep his composure:
- Let's see, if I understand correctly…you stood by the steps of St Maxim church, didn't you?...a wreath of roses in your arms. Were they really roses? Yes?...No?... After all, it's not important. The procession was already announced…Cheers came from the crowd as our beloved King was arriving.
He paused and said aside:
- May God keep him safe.
Then he went in his usual tone, a bit livelier:
- The Royal carriage was approaching…You took the flowers as if you wanted to throw them to His Majesty. But, while the flowers were in your left hand, your right hand took out a gun from them. You were already aiming when policeman Pietro grabbed your arm.
The file didn't give that many details but the Chancellor was able to read through the story far better that the kingdom's judges. He raised his head:
- This is the way it happened, isn't it, Madam?
Bianca answered simply:
- Quite possible.
Count Arnoldi pushed the file away and risked a sudden move:
- Could you tell me why you wanted to kill the King?
She replied firmly:
- No!
The Chancellor raised his hand. This negative answer was enough for him. It proved her intention.
- This is your own business, he said. You are allowed now to keep your secret.
He couldn't go any further and Bianca, extremely cautious, was determined to confess to this important visitor none of her actions since she left the circus. Here is what she did:
Alone, she made her way towards Illyria after getting the information necessary. It didn't take her long. The accession to the throne of a new King in Illyria was not a diplomatic secret. Bianca swore she would take the law into her own hands and kill the man responsible in her eyes of Tito's murder. Not for one minute, she suspected the truth. Who could have anyway? The abyss didn't give back his victims and Count Cassatti's body never resurfaced. Everything happened through such a miraculous coincidence that nobody could have ever foreseen it. Count Arnoldi didn't try to discover the girl's secret thoughts. After looking at her in silence for a moment, he went on:
- His Majesty has the great desire to see you. I think your youth inspired some pity in him. He would like to save you…
Lower, he added:
- I hope you can acknowledge such great Royal kindness.
He didn't stop spying on the girl while keeping his head bent and his eyes half-closed. He was cunning devil. He was very pleased to notice the girl shuddering with his last few words.
- Be assured, she said in muffled voice, that I will certainly acknowledge -as you said- such Royal kindness…
- That's enough for me. You are going back to your cell and I will come back to fetch you later. Don't be afraid, everything will happen according to your desire.

To be continued
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Postby Ann Harding » April 14th, 2008, 3:48 am

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Chapter IV
The Criminal (end)

The Chancellor looked happier than ever. He went back to the private apartments. He found his master playing dominoes. Tito had never been in a better mood. Even while he was winning, he stopped playing immediately and sent away the aide-de-camp. His meeting with the Chancellor had to be without any witness. As soon as he had gone, Tito asked immediately:
- Then?
- Then, went on the Chancellor, I saw the convicted lady. She is very pleasant!
Tito could have done without such comments.
- What did she tell you?
- The authorities keep her at your disposal, but, I must tell Your Majesty that this lady is extremely conceited. She thinks it's perfectly natural that Your Majesty wishes to see her. She didn't even ask why… She didn't seem touched at all.
Tito had a vague gesture:
- It really doesn't matter.
- Of course!
The Chancellor said that as if he was well aware of what was going on, but didn't want to pry into his King's affairs. He went on:
- Besides, it can be done extremely discreetly. Your Majesty is free to receive whomever he wants in his private apartments, in perfect secrecy.
It was perfectly fitting for the former clown as well as for the Chancellor.
- You're telling me that nobody in the palace will know about her visit? asked Tito.
- Nobody, except me!
- Except you, of course, but, I suppose it doesn't matter.
The Chancellor shook his head and smiled enigmatically.
- It makes no difference.
Tito wanted to ask a few more questions and he dared to do it, as in this occasion, Count Arnoldi showed such sympathy that he forgot his former suspicion. And Tito asked:
- How did she receive you and what did she say exactly?
- She assured me that Your Majesty would find her the most obedient subject, in every respect.
Tito looked closely at the Chancellor and became flustered. For him, it was obvious that Bianca couldn't have guessed the truth. He would have given his life to know her aim in coming to Illyria… Whom did she expect to find, Tito or Cassatti? It was a dreadful uncertainty.
He was astonished by the Count's words and thought:
- Obedient in every respect…what does it mean?
The Chancellor interrupted this painful thinking and told him his project:
- I will provide her tonight with the ordinary dress of a court lady. If someone would ever meet her in the palace, they would take her for a visitor at a private audience. Anyway, I'll make arrangements to empty all corridors.
Tito nodded mechanically but he was obviously preoccupied:
- Right…right…
- I will provide her with some jewellery.
- All right, as you wish.
- And I will guide her myself.
- I ask you.
Count Arnoldi put a finger on his lips waiting to ask an embarrassing question he was afraid to ask without permission. Then Tito said:
- Speak, I ask you. What do you want to ask?
The Chancellor explained:
- This lady…Where shall I take her? In the living room or directly in your bedroom?
Tito blushed:
- In the living room, of course.
Count Arnoldi bowed and left the room backwards. He didn't need to ask anything more.

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Postby Ann Harding » April 15th, 2008, 10:52 am

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Chapter V
Bianca Meets the King (part 1)

- Allow me, Madam, to draw your attention to the freshness and beauty of this dress. Is it not worthy of your beauty? It will emphasize your gracious features.
Bianca stopped Count Arnoldi's verbosity. He obsequiously showed her the dress which should replace her very simple one she had been wearing since her departure from the circus.
- Never mind! She said.
- And these jewels?
The count insisted showing the shiny pearl necklaces, the earrings and diamonds he took in the Royal treasure with his His Majesty's permission. In spite of herself, Bianca looked at the astonishing jewels she was going to wear.
- They are beautiful, she said.
Count Arnoldi was exultant.
- It's up to you to wear them for ever, he said with a subtle and smiling diplomacy.
Bianca realised she had to work out a bit her character. She saw in this man only a high civil servant, willing to help his master, one of these men in charge of their sovereign's pleasures, whatever they are. She realised he had to trust her. She smiled as if she accepted the gift willingly:
- I'll wear them gladly. It will give me pleasure.
The Chancellor came up to her and whispered in her ear as if they were both conspirators bound by the same oath:
- Then, I deserve your gratitude, my dear, as I was the one who selected them and I took the very best, believe me.
He looked around. This scene took place in some kind of anteroom separating the King's living room and the reception room.
- You'll be perfectly comfortable her to dress up, said Count Arnoldi, showing her the dressing table placed there for court ladies so that they could check their faces before appearing in front of the King.
Then going back to the door:
- I'll come back to fetch you in a minute.
He went to the living room. Tito was waiting in his private apartments the moment when the criminal would be at his disposal. Everything had to be done according to the rules. While it was an intimate meeting, the etiquette was still very much in use. The living room was empty. Count Arnoldi checked that everything was in place, then, he went to the Royal desk. The documents waiting for signature the next day were there; he put his hand on them. He whispered:
- There, it will be perfect.
He looked again to see if a better place couldn't be found, then, he took out of his pocket a small dagger, one of these luxury stilettos called in Illyria 'garter's dagger', a favourite ladies' weapon in this tormented nation.
- And now let's see. Our young friend must be ready now.
He didn't realise how long it took a lady to get dressed, but in the circumstance, Bianca equipped herself very quickly. She was used to fast changes of costume at the circus. In no time, she had put on the dress and jewels. She was ready when the Count knocked at the door and she opened the door herself.
- Goodness me! Exclaimed the Chancellor when he saw her, what a metamorphosis!
It was truly amazing. The girl's beauty shone around her. Tall, extremely elegant, Bianca could have seduced the most reticent man. Her black velvet dress brought out the pale colour of her skin. The jewels shone brightly and the Chancellor looked dazzled. Gallantly, he expressed his true feelings as it was perfectly alright to show some courtesy to a young lady:
- I've never wanted to be a King, but there are some days when, truly, I'll take gladly His Majesty's place.
While she hated such empty compliments, Bianca tried to smile. She was expecting to meet the man known to her as Count Carlo Cassatti. While she was still wondering how the story would end, she was determined to tell Tito's murderer what she felt and to kill him if she had the occasion or the strength to do it. She put her life in God's hands and trusted Providence to help her. She said:
- I'm ready.
The Chancellor took her hand.
- Do you want to come to the King's living room?
He took her to the vast living room where Tito spent most of the day. He took her to the desk with perfect natural, taking care not to look at the object he placed earlier.
- Wait for me here, my dear conspirator! You have five minutes to prepare yourself for the audience.
He went to the other end of the room and pretended to leave it. But, he walked sideways in the half-light, spying carefully her every move. Bianca stayed seated. Her glance was scanning everything around her. Then, suddenly she saw the dagger on the papers. Quickly, she grabbed it and put it in her dress' neckline against her breast. Suddenly, she stopped, breathless, her eyes dilated by fear. The Chancellor was in front of her. He came back noiselessly from the corner where he was hiding and stood in front of the girl, impassive and severe. Bianca thought she was trapped and was going to go back to prison without being able to carry out her revenge. Then, Arnoldi spoke. It was brief and harsh:
- Give me that dagger or I call the officer on duty.
Bianca tried to pretend:
- I don't know what you mean.
The Chancellor moved his hand. With one finger, he showed her bodice. On her white skin, the dagger's handle showed as she didn't hide it too much so that she could grab it quickly. She knew she was caught and looked at the Chancellor. She tried to guess what was going on in this man's mind. Why didn't he call the guard? What did he want? Was it not a new trap designed especially to catch her?
- Give me that stiletto!
She took it out and gave it to the Count.
- Here it is.
- What did you really want to do?
- I wanted to kill him.
The Count didn't bat an eyelid. Bianca felt he was waiting for such a reply. She hoped again, hoped for her revenge desired for so long. The Chancellor looked changed; he had the face of bad angel. She observed avidly this steely glance, this inscrutable and unpleasant face, this stubborn forehead hiding a domineering will, a desire to succeed at all costs.
- You wanted to kill the King…
- Yes…
Then the Chancellor went close to her and talking to her face to face, he said in a very low voice:
-This is why I took you here.
To be continued

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Postby Ann Harding » April 19th, 2008, 7:37 am

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Chapter V
Bianca Meets the King (end)

For the last minute, no more, Bianca started to suspect the truth. She heard this sentence with relief. At last she had an ally: a man who hated Cassatti as much as she did. She didn't try to understand this hidden and incomprehensible conspiracy; she just thought it was the means to avenge Tito's murder. Whatever happened afterwards didn't matter. She said:
- I am listening.
Then, he revealed his intentions, so self-confident and showing so much fervour in his tone that Bianca couldn't doubt his sincerity. This man was sincere: he completely loathed his masters. But he nevertheless loved life too much to play the hero. He had the ambition to become an important figure after the main event.
- Our nation must get rid of this corrupt race of rulers. It damaged the country considerably. It's high time we started acting. The King knows who you are and even then, he wanted to see you. Are you still ready to act?
She replied:
- I am ready.
- You'll kill him whatever the consequences?
She committed herself fully:
- I won't leave this room until I see him lying dead.
Then, the Count's face became milder. Admittedly he didn't feel any pity for the young woman so courageous in her intentions, but he nevertheless admired her fortitude. However, he took a few precautions.
- Now, we are going to plan everything and study the details.
He walked to a door hidden behind a heavy drapery opposite the door from which the girl came in.
- When the king will be dead, you'll leave the palace through this door. The way will be clear. You'll just need to walk across the park and from there you'll be in the countryside. Afterwards, it will be up to you.
He signalled that he declined all responsibilities for the consequences. His good will stopped at the end of the park. Bianca concluded the discussion:
- Afterwards… Never mind!
He repeated:
- You're right…
However, he added:
- I hope you'll be able to reach your own country safe and sound. It's my greatest wish, believe me…
Bianca looked at the Chancellor's face and sceptical, she laughed. She saw on the man's face some kind of a fake grin, which told her his seeming sincerity was highly doubtful. She knew he couldn't care less about her freedom. She wondered if going out would be as easy as he suggested it. But, as she had told him forcefully: nothing mattered for her. The Chancellor spoke again as he couldn't let the King wait indefinitely and he still had important informations to communicate. He showed her the clock on the mantelpiece and told her it was a quarter to two. Then he explained:
- If at two o'clock, you haven't accomplished your mission, another hand will do it and you'll be accused of the murder.
She replied, determined:
- You won't need another hand, mine is ready.
There wasn't anything more to say. Each ones destiny was in their hands. The Chancellor, without a single remorse, left Bianca alone and went straight to the King's bedroom to send him to his death. In any case, he was sure he would come out -himself- completely unscathed.

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Postby Ann Harding » April 20th, 2008, 9:30 am

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Chapter VI
Where Things Get Even Worse (part 1)

Bianca was alone in the King's room. She watched anxiously the door where the Chancellor left. In all logic, the king would enter through there. While her heart was steady and her strength intact and wouldn't betray her energy, Bianca felt incredibly worried deep down. Wasn't the King or rather 'Count Cassatti' worried about her and on his guard? Would he be stupid enough to think that Bianca didn't want to avenge Tito's murder? But, it was also possible that he didn't suspect that Bianca knew his secret. The drapery moved slightly. The end of the room was in the dark, a vague figure stood out against the wall. Then, she knew the King had come in without her noticing it. For how long did he wait in this corner like an animal ready to pounce on her? Looking more carefully, she noticed a uniform with some brass buttons reflecting some lights intermittently. She felt observed and examined from head to toe. She curtseyed and looked at the King. He had not moved one inch. Near the door, he was waiting and she waited yet another minute. She couldn't understand his silence. She spoke:
- You asked for me, Sire?
A call, an affectionate murmur reached her ears:
- Come closer!
She went towards the King and from the light she was in, she moved into the dark. She now recognised the man from the Savoia Hotel, that Carlo Cassatti who brought tragedy to her life. She felt the cold blade of the stiletto against her skin and she knew she only had one gesture to do to carry out her plan.
- I came to your order, Sire. What do you want me to do?
She was now very close to the man and could hear his oppressed breathing. She discovered the face and mostly the eyes staring at her and noticed their strange ardour. And he still remained silent. He was literally lost in contemplation of the being he had desired for so long. Then, Bianca realised she had to start the conversation and it wasn't easy. She had to be careful not to be fooled by this apparent respect which was probably only pretence. She remembered that Cassatti was anything but shy and if in this moment, he looked prudent, it's probably because he feared for his life. Wasn't he aware of the attempt to his life which sends the young acrobat to prison? Why, then, did he ask her to come? She tried to make him forget the past, if it was possible.
-Isn't it nice to think that no circus will make me leave Your Majesty before the end of the evening? She said.
She smiled and the darkness didn't allow the King to notice how ironic and forced that smile was.
- Tonight, she said, I am all yours. I thank you for calling me.
She was surprised by the long silence she got in reply to her welcome. She went closer.
- You do not want to forgive me for my stupid conduct at the Savoia Hotel?
She noticed that he moved his hand as if he wanted to grab her arm. But, as if he regretted it, he moved his hand to the collar of his uniform and stayed that way. Again, a long silence, he asked:
- Then, you came of your own free will?
Bianca looked at the King. This voice suddenly disturbed her. She remembered Cassatti's imperious voice and did not recognise it in this hesitant voice. For her, Tito was dead. Nothing could allow her to think he had taken the other one's place. Nothing could change her idea of the drama. It was probably just a hallucination on her part to imagine Tito at such a moment. She imagined it was him. She had been struck by the same feeling when she first met Count Cassatti after her balloon stunt. She didn't reply, he insisted:
- Then, you came of your own free will?
Then, she answered firmly:
- Certainly, Sire.
Then, moving her head slightly so that he couldn't see the nervous trembling of her lips, she added:
- Girls are usually stupid. Since you left, since I acted like a mad woman, I know better.
He said simply:
- Ah!
Then, she came even closer. If she waited any longer, she wouldn't have the strength to do it. She would loose her courage and never strike the man she swore to kill. It was a terrible thing to premeditate a murder and to kill a living human being. It was even harder for Bianca as the man she saw was so different from the one she remembered. She put her hand in her dress to grab the dagger, but as she was pulling it, she felt her arm grabbed so violently that she thought she had been discovered. And then, suddenly a bright light fell from the ceiling and this corner of the room until now in the dark, lit up and all its details became clear. Then, this time, Bianca raising her eyes looked at the man besides her. She screamed in anguish. She had recognised Tito.
To be continued

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feaito

Postby feaito » April 20th, 2008, 3:34 pm

Please another installment!!!! What happens next!!! :shock: :shock: :shock:

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » April 21st, 2008, 10:57 am

Here is the new installment, Fernando! :) With, even better, a small animation of stills. This particular scene was heavily illustrated by the still photographer. 8)

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Chapter VI
Where Things Get Even Worse (part 2)

If everybody mistook Tito for the King, it wasn't the case for Bianca. Her heart couldn't make such a mistake. She knew the one she loved and the one she hated. She had gazed so many times at the face of the man she loved, stared so deep into his bright and honest eyes that she couldn't be fooled. She exclaimed, hands joined, her face showing an indescribable joy:
- You, it's you!
He had moved back slightly and when she extended her arms to hold him, he seemed to push her back instead of embracing her. He replied sombrely:
- Yes, it's me.
Then, again, a violent pain stroke Bianca. She got the intuition that everything was lost again. Because of circumstances unknown to her, it wasn't the Tito she had known, but a stranger who seemed to have forgotten everything. Tito, when he saw Bianca in his palace, discovering she was almost happy to meet the King, felt a deep sorrow. When he came in, motionless, staring at his beloved, overcome by his own emotion, not daring to approach the one he loved, he couldn't believe she could welcome with such serene kindness the man responsible for her all misfortunes. He expected an expression of anger, cold contempt or even some violence, but not such submission. Instead, he found a woman who seemed to accept the situation with certain indifference. He didn't even realise, as her gesture had been extremely quick and discreet; she had wanted to grab the dagger. And suddenly, anger overcame him:
- So, you know better…
She remained silent; tears streaming from her eyes, looking at the man she shed so many tears over and risked her life for.
- You know better, no doubt, it's better to seek the favours of high-placed person rather than be indifferent?
- Tito!
- Be silent. You came of your own free will, happy, to this miserable Cassatti.
She shook her head, broken, her heart pounding so violently, she nearly fainted.
- And you said our love and dreams were all your life.
- Tito, I didn't know.
He shrugged. Just one word now could have explained everything. Why didn't Tito ask about the letter he sent her from the Savoia Hotel? But how could he doubt she had not received it? Deep in himself, his anger grew stronger and his contempt as well for this woman he had loved so much who managed to break his trust and all his love. As she was trying to hold his hands again, he pushed her away so violently that she fell down and stayed there, moaning and unable to get up. He went on venting all his misery and pains:
- You killed not only our future, but you poisoned the past. You made our lives impossible.
And bent over her, he insulted her:
- I am going to throw you away, do you hear?... And never again, we'll find each other! Never again, I'll ever think of you, never!
The scene was atrocious for poor Bianca. Her world was collapsing. The former clown felt a bitter past coming back in his mouth. He wondered if he ever loved her. He felt cold, so cold as if a freezing wind was stinging his face and chest. He went to the window. Some dark cloud moved in the sky, hiding the stars. Behind him, he heard Bianca's voice, broken and whining:
- Tito, didn't you understand?
He didn't turn yet. He waited for another call from Bianca. But, this time he was struck by the anguish in her voice, by the terrible pain of this broken woman.
- Tito, didn't you understand?
He looked at her. She was like a white spot in the light; she was still lying on the wooden floor. Then suddenly, he felt a great pity for her. He came to pick her up and forgot his resentment. He didn't dare talking to her as he was afraid to go back on his word. She was sobbing quietly, gulping with fright.
- Yes, Tito, I came here to avenge you. Now that I have lost you, nothing matters anymore…
Then, suddenly, Tito's love came back surging in his heart, so passionately that he felt compelled to kneel in front of Bianca, ask her forgiveness, kiss the hem of her dress and die with her. After, this sudden emotion, he wanted to understand:
- Bianca, then, you didn't know it was me?
She shook her head, telling him what she had done since she left the Barretti Circus.
- And my letter! Bianca, my letter! Didn't you receive it?
Then all was explained. A small thing can stop the most important event in its course. A letter that doesn't arrive, a small treason and two human beings are stroke by tragedy. Now, they felt a real pleasure to remember the past together. They would have gone talking longer if Bianca had not seen the clock on the mantelpiece. She trembled and grabbed Tito's arm. He looked at her and was scared by her pallid face and her trembling lips. Bianca saw it was two minutes to two. She waited for these two minutes to pass in a deadly silence as she couldn't utter a word. She was virtually anaesthetized by the coming event, this monstrous murder waiting to be committed. The thin chiming of the clock brought her back to life. She shuddered and screamed:
- Tito, I betrayed you!
To be continued

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