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

The Magic Flame (1927) Henry King

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » February 20th, 2008, 9:37 am

Here is more excitement, Fernando! 8)

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Chapter X
Count Cassatti's Method

The circus went on with its ordinary life, quiet in its skilfully ordered fancy and strict in its daily training. The same events repeated themselves without any whim other than the changes in the programme. One lived peacefully, loudly but without any modification. Bianca and Tito went on loving each other freely, in absolute serenity. Nobody cared about them as it looked perfectly normal. Nobody joked about them as everybody was far too busy with their work. The acrobats only cared about their own business and their own family. Admittedly, one could hear here and there some quarrels. When thirty to forty actors perform every night on the ring, fighting for success, there is always some disagreement and some unpleasant words exchanged.
There was some obscure jealousies and some persistent hatred; but, overall, it was forgotten when it came to being professional and also Father Barretti's authority brought back peace with his conciliatory good-nature.
Bianca was intoxicated by her love which had been growing ever since Tito's first vows. She found her happiness even greater as if she was living a new life and the future looked bright like a summer dawn. Since the evening when the Count entered her dressing-room, she heard nothing from him and she couldn't have cared less what was happening in the world.
Time, things and beings had ceased to exist for her. Only one man did the one she loved. Only one world: the circus. Everything else was just literature or fancy. Her horizon was that of the circus' tent. She lived, moved, ate and got dressed with only one wish: to love and keep Tito forever. And, also, she was preparing with him, in secret, her new balancing act. She had found a discreet little gymnasium where nobody could see her. She knew that acrobats, however nice they can be, could be extremely indiscreet and liked to steal their colleagues' secrets. She knew that the best way to success for an acrobat was silence and not to talk to any her colleagues from the ring. They certainly would never have stolen one penny in her pocket or her dressing room, but, they wouldn't have thought twice about to steal a new movement or trick for their profit. They would have set up, before her, a number similar to hers and Tito so that she would have lost any authorship in it. Tito and Bianca were rehearsing continuously. One day, during an afternoon rehearsal, a ring hand brought a letter for Bianca. She took it and read it while staying on her trapeze, legs up and head down. Tito waited for her to call him up, in one corner. She read very slowly and re-read as if she wanted to really understand the meaning of the words. And, suddenly by a skilful pull-up, one of these acrobatics for which she was famous, she jumped from the trapeze and landed with both feet in the sand, charming and agile, waving the letter above her head.
- Tito!...
The clown was adjusting his belt; he looked up.
- What is it?
- Do you know what this letter says?
- Not yet!
- If that's good news, what do you give me?
The clown started laughing. It was really Bianca's usual manners. He felt happy for her and replied jokingly:
- I won't give you anything. If that's good news, you have to give me something, as it's for you.
- Read it…
She threw the letter in the air. The paper flew and nearly went over the fence. The clown caught it and after making a paper airplane with it, read the following:
Madam,
I am the agent of the International Circus Artists Association and I would like to discuss with you regarding the possibilities of an engagement. I am leaving for America tomorrow and I would really appreciate if you could come to see me tonight at 6 pm. I believe it is the right moment for you before your performance. Ask for Mr John W. Albin at the Hotel Savoia, room 216.
Best Regards.

The clown shook his head with a comical admiration and clicked his tongue:
- Goodness me!
Standing firm with her hands on her hips, Bianca was exultant.
- You are surprised, aren't you?
- I am delighted, that's all…but, I am horribly jealous and upset!
- What?
The clown pulled a face.
- This engagement is for you. I can't see anywhere my admirable exercises mentioned.
He had put such an affected emphasis on the 'exercise' word. He pretended to be wounded in his vanity, to despise the letter which he was holding like a scrap of paper and looked at it with a disdainful grimace. Bianca ran to him:
- It's because Mr…Mr John Albin (she took the letter to check the name) thinks I am the manager in our number… I am the most interesting star in our acrobatic team, am I not?
They both laughed and embraced because this letter suddenly brought a great hope. It was for them, perhaps, that great engagement which will allow them to live peacefully…And there was something else, the young woman suddenly thought about it.
- Dear! She exclaimed carried along by her own enthusiasm, do you understand? It means America and of course, our honeymoon!
Her face lit up, blushing with emotion. She reached out for Tito with both arms outstretched, looking luminous in her black singlet. She concluded:
- Shall I go, now?
He encouraged her:
- Of course! If it weren't for this rehearsal, I would go with you.
But he couldn't leave the circus now. On top of Bianca's number, he was also the partner of other clowns in the final. Signor Barretti had thirty members in his troupe, but he tried with varied costumes and a variety of numbers to make the public believe they were two hundred. As the programme was modified every week, they rehearsed every day next week's numbers. It was necessary to keep a public eager for new sensations.
Tito let Bianca go with regret. Not that he was afraid of anything, just, he was wondering if she was going to be able to safeguard her interests with the desired vigour. While wasn't obsessed about money, he knew how agents like to discuss fees. Looking at her as she was dressing:
- Whatever the price he tells you, double it! It will be reasonable.
She slapped lightly his cheek.
- Do you take me for a greenhorn, my dear Harlequin? Between us, I think I can obtain more than you would yourself.
He shook his head.
- You are conceited!
Their eyes met as they parted and she trembled under his passionate glance. She really loved him with all her soul. She had an overpowering desire to hold him against her. He came to her and embraced her for a long time. He told her:
- Go and be self-confident. You're better than any other acrobat I ever saw.
She went after putting on her coat and her black velvet beret, the same one as last year as she spent little on clothes. She walked quickly to the Savoia Hotel. At the desk, she was told where Mr J.W. Albin's apartment was. As the lift wasn't on the gound floor, she climbed the stairs, impatient to arrive. Letter in hand, she looked for the door getting lost twice in the numerous corridors of the hotel. Her footsteps were totally silent on the thick carpeted floor. A little bellboy who was whistling in the corridor told her the right way. She knocked. The agent was probably waiting as the door opened immediately, noiselessly.

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Postby Ann Harding » February 22nd, 2008, 3:48 am

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Chapter XI
In Don Juan's Lair

When Bianca saw the face of the man who opened the door, she moved back to run away, but one hand grabbed her and dragged her inside irresistibly. It was Count Cassatti who had opened the door. Bianca was wondering what kind of mistake it could be. She thought that the man whom she knew under the name of Cassatti might be a theatrical agent, and it sort of reassured her. She thought that the previous events were some kind of a test and that Mr John W. Albin had just been trying to check her morality and her artistic ability. It wasn't after all that uncommon. When one wants to take an artist for a tour to the New World, it's quite good to ascertain their good morality as well as their talent. They want to be sure she wouldn't leave during her engagement to follow someone. They were right to demand a real professional who stood the test of any seduction. After all, this agent had acted according to his profession and the result had been favourable for Bianca. This is what the girl thought when she saw Cassatti. She laughed and said:
- Then, you're not a Count, just a theatrical agent!
He didn't answer, but he showed her in the room. Before closing the door, he called the bellboy in the corridor and gave him a letter:
- Have this letter delivered immediately at the specified address… Extremely urgent!
Then, coming back in the suite, he locked the door discreetly without Bianca's notice. Then he went back to her.
- What did you say? He asked, very calm.
Bianca repeated:
- I said that you masqueraded as a Count while you are simply a circus agent or a circus manager…
He bent his head, smiled and said:
- Well thought out…my dear child. But, you are wrong, once more, I am not an agent, I am really Count Cassatti.
This time, Bianca realised the seriousness of the situation. She went white and moved back. The count apologised with ease:
- It was the only way to make you come here, isn't it?
Bianca, disgusted, whispered:
-Oh! It was shameful of you!
He continued:
- What do you expect? I use the means at my disposal. It's totally unacceptable that a girl like you should lose her time with a mere circus. She should expect better of life. Just think of all things I could do for you. I find you very attractive, darling, I'm telling you!
His distinction was losing its nobility rapidly, replaced by a haughty coarseness. His impertinence became insolence but there was still some kind of a greatness which was impressive. He knew it and he indented to win her over using his boldness. He would take her unwillingly; perhaps, she wouldn't have the strength to always refuse to give herself to him. Bianca nevertheless hurried towards the door. She found it locked. She realised the trap she had fallen in and suddenly, she got scared. But, she did all she could to keep her composure to show that she wasn't afraid and was ready to fight. It wasn't in vain that she had gone through sufferings and humble beginnings at the circus. She wasn't ready to be dominated by anybody. She had been in charge of herself since the age of eight. She knew full well that a woman could defend herself if she had enough energy and willpower. She leaned against the door, her hands behind her back and asked ironically:
- What then?
But, Count Cassatti wasn't the kind of man who lost his composure that easily. The two adversaries were evenly matched. He came back quietly to Bianca and slowly, he unbuttoned her coat, taking no notice of the girl's beating heart and recoil. He said:
- Then, I suppose we will both benefit equally from a better acquaintance… Only, do not stay in the entrance. Trust me. I won't detain you more than a few minutes. Come into the living room.
She followed him, wondering about any diplomatic move to avoid a scandal in the hotel. He continued, insinuating:
- What do you think of a little supper while we discuss the future?
There was a knock at the door. Some hope came back to Bianca. Perhaps somebody would enter and save her. The Count went to open but he opened it only half way. Somebody outside said a few words and the door was closed before Bianca could even call out. He locked the door carefully again and came back.
-See, he said, very calm, we have nothing to fear; we won't be disturbed. You are not even expected for tonight's performance.
Furious, realising that some base act had been committed and losing her temper, Bianca exclaimed, violently:
- What did you say? You know full well that I must be back at the circus at 7 pm.
He shook his head.
- No.
She stepped back, one hand on her chest:
- No?
- No. I sent a letter to your director mentioning an urgent matter that was detaining you. I've just been advised that the message reached its addressee.
Then, she nearly chocked with anger. She talked but words didn't come out. She was red and her eyes were threatening.
-Oh! What a coward!... It's so disgusting… You're going to let me go at once, do you hear?
He tried to calm her down. But, he did it with his usual impertinence, as he didn’t take her seriously. For Bianca, it was just another abuse.
- Be a dear, my sweet! I do not want you to lose your job. I included a large sum of money to my letter for your director. Be sure that nobody will bear a grudge against you… on the contrary!
Did he imagine that he had won her over? No, probably. He knew how to bluff, that's all and he was sure of his victory. He put his arm around her waist. She was astounded by such recklessness but she found in herself the resource to react. She jumped back, decided to defend herself. He went too far and she felt that no prayer or plea would have any effect. This man was completely cold and merciless; he only considered women as some instruments for his own pleasure. On the table, she noticed the telephone, near her. She grabbed the receiver:
- Hallo! Quick, quick!
Very quietly, Cassatti went behind her, took a knife out of his pocket and cut the wire. He felt Bianca was now isolated and at his mercy. He closed the entrance's door. Bianca had first got connected with the desk, but suddenly the line went dead. She looked around and saw the cut wire. She had to react quickly. As she couldn't escape through the door, she chose the window. She went straight for it and drew the curtains. The window was opened and it was already dark. A purple twilight covered the sea and an autumn storm was gathering its clouds on the horizon. She stopped dumbfounded when she saw the abyss under her feet. If she jumped, it would mean death on these rocks. Her dislocated body would be swallowed by the whirlpool. She shivered. Cassatti's voice whispered in her hears:
- It's marvellous, isn't it? It's a great foretaste for our night of love!
She knocked him against the wall and ran to the bedroom. She saw that one window was on the seaside, but she noticed another one on the opposite side. She went to that one; it was open like the previous one. She bent over the ledge and saw the hotel's park below, a vast garden planted with cypresses and pine trees whose branches nearly reached her. Cassatti's voice was following her. He had followed her in the bedroom. He whispered:
-It's four-storey's high, my dear child. I like high rise apartments; it's better to admire the landscape. And, you noticed, it's wiser when you receive some pretentious young woman who put on airs when offered some private diner.
He didn't foresee what Bianca was going to do. In one glance, she had measured the distance, calculated her chance and observed the elements in her favour. She climbed on the window ledge.
- Here! Be careful, said Cassatti.
She jumped. The Count screamed, but he didn't manage to stop her. He bent in through the window, but all he could see was the agitated foliage of a huge pine tree. During one minute, his lip trembled, and then, regaining his composure, he whispered casually:
- That's a shame!
He didn't care for the rest. He didn't know if the girl had killed herself or she had taken refuge in a tree, hooked on a branch. He didn't know and didn't want to.
However, as he didn't hear any noise, he supposed that she must have been resting in the solid branches of the pine tree and that she would have to spend the night there because the tree was huge without any lower branches. And he thought that it was a good punishment.
--------------
Bianca didn't kill herself; neither did she stay in the tree. A circus acrobat possesses some strength in her arms and wrists quite unlike any ordinary women. She was used to grab the flying trapeze and it had been easy for her to cling on to the branch she noticed before jumping. That branch luckily was strong enough to support her weight. It bent and straightened up. Bianca waited until the swinging had stopped. Then after balancing her body like she did on her trapeze, she jumped and grabbed another branch. She was now only ten meters from the ground. She evaluated the distance easily as se was accustomed to do it. It was still too high to jump directly. She looked at the nearest tree and slid along the branch. She was expecting it to break and was ready to take advantage of it. A creaking sound. The branch broke. But, Bianca had jumped again and gripped the top of a cypress with both arms. Now to reach the ground, it was easy. She slid down and landed in the park, with a sigh of relief and satisfaction. She had escaped from Cassatti and from death. And, she could, on top, arrive at the circus just on time for the performance. It was a good day. Then, gaily, she raised her head and said goodbye in a quiet and ironic way to the window she just left:
- Goodbye, my dear agent!
And she found a door and left. Nobody noticed her. In the street, she ran to the circus.

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Postby Ann Harding » February 25th, 2008, 5:19 am

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Chapter XII
A Disrupted Performance

It was around 8 pm and the circus seemed to be filled with consternation. Bianca went through the corridor to the dressing rooms. At the entrance of the ring, Father Barretti was in the middle of all the men, prop men, grooms, clowns and looked very nervous. He was agitated and pushed everybody around; already the first spectators were already seating the top tier.
Bianca heard him saying:
- My God! That's such a nuisance!... What are we going to do?
She shouted to the director from afar, already removing her coat and running to her dressing room to put on her costume:
- I'm here, Father Barretti! Do not worry… You'll be able to start in five minutes, just move my number a bit later. Is Tito ready?
The director screamed with joy when he saw her. He ran after her and the circus hands started to unfold the carpet that was laid at the last minute.
Barretti cached up with Bianca as she was entering her dressing room.
- You're here! That's good, he said only half satisfied, but where is Tito?
She started to unhook her dress. She stopped and looked at the director anxiously:
- Tito is not here?
- No…
- Where is he?
- He went to look for you.
She clang to Barretti and shook him:
-Look for me!... But, didn't you know I was coming back?
She didn't remember the letter written by Cassatti and in her mind everything was blurred. She was scared. Father Barretti freed himself and took something in his blue coats inside pocket.
- But, no! We were not expecting you. Here is the letter I received earlier. It worried me a lot actually.
He gave Bianca the big blue letter with a coat of arms, covered with large writing. She read the following words:
La signorita Bianca is dining with me tonight and she won't be back in time for the performance. The enclosed sum will compensate any loss resulting from her absence.
She read feverishly and the words danced before her eyes while the letter trembled in her hands. She threw it away.
- What then…Tito?
- He went to fetch you…naturally! You didn't think he was going to wait for you. You sound as if you didn't know him?...cried Father Barretti in a whining voice, this boy doesn't understand life. But, in those circumstances, I cannot blame him.
Bianca clenched her fists with rage. Everything was against her. Father Barretti misunderstood her gesture and thought she was worried about the number. He wanted to reassure her:
- Do not worry, he will come back. I already had another clown trained to replace Tito. It won't be as good, certainly, but less than ten people will notice the substitution. You know that the public never sees anything!
Vehemently, Bianca grabbed him by the collar and started to hurl abuse against him, without thinking that the time was running out and the orchestra was already playing the overture. The clowns were gathering for their entrance. She only thought about rescuing her friend.
-You don't realise what man he is dealing with! She screamed. I know Tito and I also know this man who looks like him: they are going to fight… We must, at all costs, go to find Tito.
Father Barretti looked embarrassed. He had not expected that.
- Then, he whispered, I must go after him?
She replied:
- Do not hesitate…
One could hear the band playing even more loudly in the distance while the public was getting louder. Orders were given in the wings and the horses were getting ready. The acrobat at the rings was scolding his wife because she had forgotten to sew a few sequins on her costume. A groom was pushing an elephant back in his box. It was just the ordinary noise before a performance. Suddenly, they were some scant applause and the band stopped playing. Father Barretti jumped:
-God almighty! He said, it's already started and I am not there. Dress up quickly and we'll talk about it all during the interval.
He went leaving Bianca alone. She went disconsolate into her dressing room to prepare herself. How many times, have the circus' moving antitheses been described? But these occur constantly in the life of these perpetual nomads. They live and act only for our pleasure and have to think first at the success of a performance before their private torments. A cruel life many times. All their ideal rests in this: Not to miss their turns. Anything can happen. Illness even doesn't prevent them to appear in public. Pale under the makeup which masks their tired faces, looking good in spite of their weakness; they do what they are asking for: performing is the life ethos for those who are here to entertain the public. It's a duty like that of a soldier even if it looks less noble in appearance; it's just as pressing and justified by its caste's pride. No a single spectator must be able to guess the unhappiness of the ones he applauses or boos. They must appear, salute and smile even if afterwards they will collapse in pain. Bianca was also enduring this terrible law. She got dressed. She had to redo her makeup three times as her mascara was running. The ring attendant barked:
- Your turn, Bianca.
She replied, tamed:
- One second.
She attached her singlet quickly and immediately ran to the artist's corridor towards the ring. Barretti, worried, was watching the entrance. When he saw her, he beamed and he turned towards the orchestra at the other end of the ring and raised his hand. Everything will be alright; the box office receipts were secure. And the conductor attacked the tune. At the fourth bar, on a long sustained note, Bianca jumped onto the ring, light and ethereal under thunderous applause. She bowed to the front, on the right and left. And with her light ballerina step, she reached the rope and climbed it with only her writs' strength to reach her trapeze. Passing, she glanced at her new partner, Tito's replacement who was waiting on the ring carpet. In spite of her emotion, she hoped. The clown wore Tito's costume, his makeup. Wasn't he Tito?
His first movement crushed any hope. Artist can wear the same costume but their movements will always distinguish them. Each one has his own personality. Each one acts according to his own talent. When the clown who doubled for Harlequin took his guitar and opened his mouth, Bianca knew it wasn't Tito. She felt desperately unhappy… But no one could have suspected it as she didn't make a single fault in her usual exercises. When she was resting on her trapeze and mopping her hands with a handkerchief, she cried while watching her new partner. She had seen Tito only yesterday accomplishing the same number. And these games that used to make her smile, now looked like a sad and depressing parody which made her even sadder. How slowly this performance was going! It felt endless. To shorten it, she wanted to avoid going back for another curtain call. But, Father Barretti pushed her on the ring and she had to bow again, to smile her hand on her heart and send kisses with her hand…
At last, the show ended and the final number was shorten as everybody in the circus was now aware of Bianca's torments and the acrobats liked to much not to help her. Everybody knew she would run after Tito as soon as the performance had ended. She wouldn't lack help. Some of her colleagues put themselves at her disposal. She refused their offer. She wanted to act alone or at least with Father Barretti whom she trusted completely. As soon as she came out of the ring, she removed her costume quickly and reappeared outside the dressing room.
- Are we going, Father Barretti?
It took a bit longer to Father Barretti to remove his costume. He liked Tito, but he didn't have the vivacity of the young clown. He grumbled:
- One minute, please! I cannot go out with that grey top hat.
She allowed him to change his hat and to remove his beautiful blue coat. But he had to keep on his jodhpurs and his boots because it was going to take too long. He hid the lot under a greatcoat with a grey fur collar which was about ten years old. If he was particular about his attire during a performance, he was totally indifferent to any kind of elegance for his daily clothes. He even confessed he didn't want to be a dandy.
They left. In the empty streets, they met a few people out late going back home. The evening was beautiful with a starry sky and the ebb and flow of the sea could be heard in the distance, especially the waves crashing against the rocky coast.
- Quick, quick, Father Barretti. There is no time to lose.
Bianca was hurrying the circus director as she was so anxious to get to the Savoia Hotel. She felt some tragedy had happened. In her heart, she felt an instinctive anxiety. She knew Tito's temper and she had also for a short time a chance to evaluate Cassatti's foul temper. She felt the two men didn't only look like each other physically, but also in terms of their vehement temper. Were they not as passionate and intense? Only, she knew Tito's qualities and she found his look-alike full of evil designs and thoughts that could only belong to an evil person. The count looked like the earthly incarnation of a nasty angel. She remembered his devilish glance and his dreadful audacity. She took her companion's arm:
- Let's run, Father Barretti.
The director stopped on-the-spot.
- Run if you want, my girl, but my old legs do not allow it.
Willy-nilly, she had to wait for the old man who did his best to follow her. While it felt like an eternity to Bianca, it didn't take more than ten minutes to reach the Savoia Hotel. The porter seemed astonished to see such strange people at his desk. His usual customers dressed better. He talked haughtily to them like he did to the small personnel or any customer from a humble background:
- What do you want, my man?
It was Bianca who replied:
- To see Count Carlo Cassatti immediately… Hurry up, he is expecting us.
The porter was rather surprised and after a glance to the manager who was gathering his papers before leaving, he said with a patronizing smile:
- I doubt it. At this time of the evening, Count Cassatti never receives any visit.
Bianca hit the desk with her hand and her authoritarian tone stroke everybody, even Father Barretti who in general never let anybody, stars or colleagues, impressed him.
- I insist. We want to see Count Cassatti and we won't leave the hotel unless we see him.
The manager spoke. In a milder tone than that of the porter, understanding that Bianca had serious motives to ask for the Count, he replied:
- You cannot see Count Cassatti, Madam, for the very good reason that he left the hotel about an hour ago!
The girl moved back. She didn't expect such a disappointment.
- Left the hotel…?
- Yes, about half an hour ago. They came to fetch him and, as we talk, he must be on a train. He is going towards a high destiny about which I am not allowed to talk.
Bianca staggered as if she had been punched in the stomach. She turned pale, looked at her companion and stammered shyly:
- Do you know…Do you know what direction he took?
The manager hesitated, torn between his obedience to orders and his desire to exhibit the information he knew. Finally, in a confidential voice which attenuated his indiscretion, he declared:
- Our illustrious customer took the direction of the Kingdom of Illyria, Madam. Count Cassatti is getting ready to sit on the throne of his ancestors.
Bianca had the feeling they were making fun of her and looked at Barretti. The circus director, who so far had stayed rather silent during this polite conversation, gave the necessary retort. He moved under the manager's nose and closing his fists as if he was preparing for a boxing bout, he said rather violently:
- Now, Sir, stop lying. We know that Count Cassatti received a visitor that we want to find. Didn't he go down with somebody?
Deeply wounded by this improper behaviour, the manager became arrogant again and replied haughtily:
- Count Cassatti came downstairs alone! Or at least, with visitors I knew personally. Some special envoys from the Kingdom of Illyria.
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Postby feaito » February 25th, 2008, 8:06 pm

Keep 'em coming Christine :D :D :D
Life is Beautiful.

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Postby Ann Harding » February 28th, 2008, 4:37 am

A very eventful chapter is coming, Fernando! :)

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Chapter XIII
What had happened to Tito

When he had arrived at the Savoia Hotel, Tito had asked for the count's suite and had not accepted the help of a bellboy to find it. He didn't want any witness. He didn't wait for the lift and climbed the steps four at a time as he couldn't stand to stay inactive. He wanted to act quickly and movement appeased him. He found the suite, knocked at the door and the Count himself came to open the door. As soon as he saw the face of this undesirable visitor, he wanted to close the door. But, he couldn't as Tito had put his feet between the hinge and the frame of the door. The door stayed ajar.
- Do not hope to send me away, said Tito briefly, I want to come in and I will. Believe me, it's in your own interest to receive me immediately.
The count didn't want to have a discussion in the corridor. While he wasn't afraid of scandal and knew how to deal with it, he didn't want any raised voices to be heard by his neighbours.
-Well, said he, come in if you are so curious to see me.
He opened the door wide and Tito went straight from the anteroom to the living-room. Before he spoke, he looked for Bianca. The room was empty. The clown walked straight to the Count, menacing and asked:
-Where is she?
Cassatti had gotten back all his composure. The hands in this waist pocket, his legs slightly apart, he was swaying from the tip of his toes to his heels. He looked with amusement to that new actor in the drama and was mocking him openly. He said, smiling insolently:
-You are infinitely funnier, my boy, when you have your horse costume.
He was referring to the number that Tito performed every night where he was fighting a bull with great success. Tito's voice turned like roar. He wasn't in the mood to accept any impertinence.
- Oh, please, Sir, keep your jokes for another time. I come to look for the girl you lured here. And I can swear I won't leave before I have found her. I have enough of your jokes. Your impertinence doesn't affect me and your insolence is going to bring you some serious trouble if you go on play the ignorant. If you found me funny with my cardboard horse, I swear you never made me laugh and you'll pay dearly for your conduct…Now, where is she?
Tito was now very close to the Count and was talking directly in his face. They were less than a feet apart. And before the clown could guess what would happen, the Count's arm moved suddenly. A violent punch hit him in the face; so violent that after staggering, he fell on the floor, losing his breath. The Count was readjusting his cuff, slightly displaced by the impact.
- And now, said he, I am going to show you how I treat buffoons would dare to meddle in my own business.
He went to fetch his cane, the one he had already used to hit a previous visitor –the visitor he had murdered- and this time again, he wanted to use it. Tito was getting up with difficulty. He didn't see what his adversary was going to do. He didn't realise until he saw the Savoia's Casanova preparing for another murder. He screamed, indignant but not scared, as in a fight, he was always at ease:
- Rascal!
Tito exclaimed but he didn't move. He waited for the Count to come near him, his cane raised above his head. But, when the Count arrived near him, Tito grabbed the cane and pulled it towards him. He then saw the cane dividing itself into two pieces. While the count kept in his hand the silver knob with a blade in it, he got the wooden sheath of the sword-stick. The view of this sword drove Tito insane. He understood that murder was always committed in cold blood in this place. And immediately, he stood up and jumped on his adversary trying to grab his arm and hitting randomly. The count managed to avoid his attack, but the clown had so much litheness, his muscles were so quick, he could duck, fend off and jumped so vivaciously that Cassatti ended up in an unfortunate position. Though, in his turn, he was getting warmer in front these attacks and started to strike. It became a savage battle in the living-room and later in the bedroom. The two men, after trying to hit each other with their fists, were now throwing furniture at each other. A chair thrown by Tito shattered the light bulb and suddenly the suite was plunged into darkness. The battle went on. The Count understood that he wouldn't dominate easily such a determined adversary, and, moreover, better trained. Nevertheless, he defended himself with fierce energy as he wasn't the kind of man to back up or admit defeat. At some point, he felt Tito's body pouncing on him. He rolled on the floor while the clown's hand was on his throat. In a low voice, Tito asked him again the question, because he wanted to give him one last chance for an excuse.
- Promise me, you won't try to see her again and I swear I'll forgive you.
The Count had still, probably, enough nobility and dignity from a past life no to resign himself to obey. He also probably considered beneath him to make an oath to a miserable buffoon, an insignificant and execrated being. He deigned not answer. Tito shook him brutally, excited by his silence; each time Cassatti's skull hit heavily the wooden floor.
- Do you hear… Do you want to swear never to see her again?
Count Carlo Cassatti replied, half strangled by Tito's hand:
- That's nobody's business but mine.
The clown thought his heart would burst. Rage made blood rush to his temples. He had a dizzy spell. And yet, he couldn't go on hitting a defeated adversary. He didn't know what to do; his hand squeezed and released his neck by turns. There was a moment of silence. Tito was trying to get his ideas straight and thought about what to do. He released his grip a bit and gave the defeated another chance. He asked:
- For heaven's sake, Sir, I promise I'll leave you alone for ever if you tell me what happened to Bianca…
He was breathless. Complete silence.
- I beg you, regain consciousness like I do. I am doing an effort not to kill you. So, quickly, where is the girl?
The Count replied simply after some struggle:
- If you let me stand up, I'll tell you where she is.
Tito was suspicious and didn't leave his position. He asked:
- Do you swear it?
Cassatti didn't move to stand up.
- I promise, he said. It's not quite the same thing. But, I think you can content yourself with a promise.
Tito hesitated for a moment. Then determined to accept this last concession, he got up but he remained on his guard. The Count got up slowly, put back his collar and went to the window. They had fought near the wide open window over the cliffs.
- Then? Growled Tito.
- Then, said the Count, I keep my promise. I am going to tell you where she went that protégé of yours. She jumped through the window.
He seemed completely at ease as if he was explaining the most natural thing in the world, but, in his eyes there was an insolent provocation. But, this time, Tito couldn't take any more and couldn't control himself. In a flash, in his panic-stricken mind, he understood that Bianca didn't hesitate to sacrifice her own life to escape from the Count. The Count saw him jump. He moved back and he was now nearly outside the window above the abyss. He couldn't leave the spot. All escape was impossible. And he received the impact of Tito's body that ran towards him like a bull rushing headlong into an obstacle. The Count had to lean back. And suddenly, unable to get his footing on the floor, Cassatti toppled over the window's ledge, screamed and fell into the abyss where all got lost in the whirlpool around the reefs.
Above, in the room, Tito stayed alone, numb by this murder he had committed in spite of himself. He was slowly realising his crime, and was shaking, not with fear or shame, but with the terror of this tragic death he had not wanted.

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Postby Ann Harding » March 1st, 2008, 8:19 am

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Chapter XIV
Where We Meet Some Unusual Envoys

It happened in the middle of the night.
- Do you think he will accept?
The man who talked this way was young and wore an elegant overcoat. He took great care of his shoes which he brushed as he talked. He was addressing an older gentleman squeezed into a military coat who looked at the Savoia Hotel with great attention. The latter shrugged.
- My dear secretary –he expressed himself in an affected manner- I cannot answer you. It is certain he won't accept willingly, but you know our orders.
The man with the light overcoat nodded politely and distantly.
- Indeed, colonel. But, you know better than me the temper of our prince. He was raised with your friends. So, before we meet him, let me ask you a question. Will we need to use force? You know as well as I do, if force must be used, it's your business…
The colonel nodded:
- I don't know what we are going to do. If the prince is still the man he was –and it's been eight years since I saw him- I think it would be better to avoid using force. I suppose he must have mellowed during his exile even if the police reports we received at the palace were not exactly full of praise regarding his behaviour. The embassy secretary laughed, probably rather titillated.
- A womanizer, ha ha!...
The colonel walked back to avoid the glare of the candelabra in front of the hotel.
- If it was only that, he said, we could manage to talk and reach an agreement. But, the prince has other failings. You must remember his affair with Duchess Malakoutchina?
The secretary apologised:
- You know that I wasn't at court at the time. I came back from Potsdam only last year.
The colonel nodded. That detail had eluded him as he had no memory.
- It's true, he said. Well, our prince –that is now our King- is what we can call a very difficult person. If you had seen him striking with his sword Duke Malakoutchina who had doubts about his wife's honour, you'll understand what I mean. It will be a King with a strong grip, no doubt about it.
- A little too strong, I fear, whispered the man in the clear overcoat who seemed to prefer diplomacy to force.
- I don't mind, said the colonel who was turning down his collar to reveal a more civilian collar before entering the hotel. But he added:
- Let's hope that supreme power will give him some gentleness. Besides, my dear boy, all princes get better as they age. Our late king was about the same in his youth; well, you saw him, he was a very acceptable person in his last days.
The secretary expressed a few objections, not without accuracy.
- Very acceptable! You're going too far. It's obvious that you didn't have to iron out all the difficulties he created with foreign governments.
- So what? The colonel exclaimed, it's your job to prevent conflicts, as it is our job to fight them.
The secretary pulled a face.
- You speak from your own point of view. Only, if you want to wedge war with six infantry battalions and four cavalry regiments only, you have to pretty sure of the heroism of all your people. And yet, you remember, our people is not particularly courageous and only last year, we had to apologise six times to the French president, the King of England, the Soviet government commissioner and the khedive of Egypt who is a rather peace-loving person. Do you think it's fun for all the ambassadors?
- It's your job, my dear boy!
The Colonel didn't seem to care at all. Certainly, he didn't come here to discuss the advantages and drawbacks of their respective occupations in front of the Savoia Hotel in the middle of the night.
- Well, are we going in?
None of the two men seemed in a hurry to accomplish their mission. However, the secretary was invited by the Colonel to climb first -very slowly- the flight of steps.
- Very well, he said with less spirit than he had shown so far, let's go to fetch the bear.
It wasn't very respectful, but it showed the actual state of mind of the diplomatic envoys of the Illyrian kingdom… They found their way in the lobby and approached the porter. They had a brief conversation with him and asked to see the manager. They could discuss the purpose of their late night visit only with him. He was fetched. All three went to the nearby lounge and talked for a few minutes. The secretary talked as he was accustomed to make speeches. He asked the manager a few questions regarding Cassatti's life. The manager who seemed to be very well aware of his client private and public life replied:
- Count Cassatti doesn't seem to have any political opinion. What he is looking for, le me tell you, gentlemen, in confidence, is women. Thus, last week, Count Cassatti went to the local circus on one of the town's square.
The colonel grumbled:
- I don't see what you find strange about it. There is no arm, there. One goes to the circus to see horses not to see women…for heaven's sake!
The secretary looked him up and down:
- Colonel!
The officer stood to attention.
- Mister Secretary?
- You don't know anything. You seem to forget that circuses have some pretty acrobats.
The colonel looked disconcerted by this blow and whispered, crestfallen:
- That's true, I forgot acrobats… There are women acrobats…they have some very nice legs, I've already noticed.
It was precisely what the manager was leading on.
- You're absolutely spot-on! He said in a confidential tone, bending down towards the embassy secretary. Count Cassatti is violently in love with a young circus woman. That's why he spent nearly all his evenings there during the past week.
It was enough for the two special envoys from Illyria and they decided not to wait any longer to visit the man they came to fetch and to tell him about their extraordinary mission.
- Lead me to him, said the colonel to the manager, I'll arrange everything in five minutes, you can count on me.
The embassy secretary who knew his instructions touched him.
- I beg you, my dear colonel, no ill-advised words; I am the one who has to tell the prince the aim of our visit. Be kind enough not to interrupt me when I'll talk. I'll certainly manage to settle the matter quietly better than you.
- It's true, replied the colonel, I am only here to support the assault…
The secretary spoke:
- If ever there is one.
- I didn't mean that, explained the Colonel decided to be all politeness.
The manager had called the valet to ask him if count Cassatti had gone out. To this question, the valet replied that the count was still in his room, but he seemed ready to leave as he just saw him wearing his hat and cloak.
- Did he ring you? Asked the manager who was very strict with service.
The valet seemed embarrassed by the question.
- No, he said, I thought I heard some noise in the suite, a very violent noise actually… I cannot describe it any other way and I used my master-key to go in and check. Do not forget there was a double murder recently in the Count's apartment.
The colonel and the embassy secretary exchanged a quick glance that the manager noticed.
- Then, asked the manager, what did you saw?
- Then, I didn't find anything abnormal, sir; the Count was there ready to leave. He sent me away briefly like he always does.
- Let's go, we have to be quick! Said the secretary who feared the prince might slipped through his fingers and never come back to the hotel (and it was possible), lead me to the apartment immediately.

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Postby Ann Harding » March 4th, 2008, 3:17 am

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Chapter XV
Tito Rises Up the Social Scale

As soon as he realised fully his act, Tito felt more embarrassment than unhappiness. He had not committed a murder; he had not wanted to commit one, acting only in self-defence. And it had been such an unfortunate and unforeseen accident when the count fell through the window. However, the facts were there and he couldn't do anything. If Tito was found in the count's suite, he would be certainly accused of murder. So his immediate reaction was his own preservation. He had only a few minutes to escape; how would he do it? He remembered his strange likeness to the victim which could help him to be taken for the Count. It was enough to escape, at least in the short term. He thought:
- I am going to go out. I'll tell Father Barretti; I'll reassure everybody and afterwards will go to the police.
For he thought that Bianca had escaped through the window and gone back to the circus. At least, he supposed so and wanted to reassure her. He took the count's cloak in the anteroom and put on his fedora. It was then that the valet came in as it was mentioned earlier in the conversation between the envoys and the manager. Tito sent the servant away as it interfered with his plans. He tried to put some order in the apartment and waited for the right moment to escape. A lot of customers were passing in the corridor and Tito didn't want to meet anybody as he was pretty unsure of himself. What would happen if he was asked some difficult question? He would be taken to the police and Bianca would be in despair for the whole night. He couldn't stand such an idea. He had to act and quickly. He was near the door, listening to every noise coming from outside; he thought it was the right moment. He was ready to go. Some footsteps in the corridor made him go back. They stopped in front of the door and he heard a knock. He hesitated for an instant, wondering what to do. He opened. He saw three unknown persons and thought they had come to arrest him. It was his first thought. How could he have thought otherwise? He lent against the wall, looking at them and determined to try his luck all the way. He asked:
- What do you want?
He was rather surprised to see all three men staring at him for a while and bowing deeply. Then one of them –it was the embassy secretary, but he didn't know- came to him and whispered in his ear:
- Your Highness! We would like to see you alone. Please, can you send away the manager and forgive our importunity.
The only thing Tito could understand so far is that the man who talked wasn't the manager. But which one of the other two was he? He needed some help to find out. He waited one minute and said:
- I want to be left alone with these two gentlemen. We have to talk.
The Savoia manager bowed deeply and left, proud and conscious of his own importance.
Not for one second, there had been any doubts in the mind of the three visitors. The hotel manager had never lived intimately with Count Cassatti to notice the small differences between Tito and his client. He wasn't a good judge of faces. As for the two envoys, they had not seen the prince for eight years. Their memory –faithful or not- could recall only vaguely the expression or the physical appearance of the one they came to fetch.
The colonel was staring at Tito with respect while standing to attention. He observed that his shoulders looked a bit broader and his face looked a bit worn. It was only natural. His moustache didn't look as neat, his eyes were less cold, but, apart from these details, it was definitely the prince he had come to fetch. He didn't stop at small details. And the embassy secretary talked:
- We came to inform Your Highness, he said in a mournful way, of the King's death, your father. We are provided with an official letter. You can check the seal. We are here on a private delegation.
He had said those words ceremoniously turning this anonymous hotel room into a prestigious royal anteroom during a funeral. Then, he took out of his pocket a paper covered with an impressive seal and gave it to Tito who had a gesture to refuse it. The embassy secretary and the colonel bowed and the paper safely tucked away, the conversation went on. Tito spoke first and as he was wondering what to say, he stammered:
- This is all very sad, I…I agree, but, I need to go, now.
The secretary extended his arm as if to block his way.
- Allow me to ask Your Highness to wait. You are only informed of the death of the King and it's only the first part of our mission. Your Royal Highness must hear the rest. And it is the most important part, as Your Highness must expect.
He made a pause and said in a stuffy manner:
- The King is dead…
- Long live the King! Exclaimed suddenly the colonel who seemed to have some difficulties to stay silent.
The secretary looked at him reproachfully. But, he didn't want to have a discussion in front of the prince; so, he only added a bit less loudly:
- Long live the King!
Tito, terribly embarrassed, looked at the two men and if the circumstances had not been as tragic for him, he would have laughed of such a mistake. He tried to go to the door, but, the colonel guessed his project and put himself in front of the door folding his arms.
- Ah! Exclaimed Tito, Long live the King! I admit it and so what!…What do you expect of me?
The secretary bowed. He had been perfectly educated.
- Now, he went on, that we have informed Your Highness of the adversity affecting him. We need to talk to Your Majesty.
Tito stammered:
- Of course!
The secretary noted his good will.
- We come to ask Your Majesty to follow us. We are forced to take the train immediately to return to Illyria. Then, from this moment, Sire, you start to rule over your faithful kingdom and we become your most faithful and obedient servants.
If this error went on any longer, Tito was in danger to go on an adventure with no way out, at least without a happy ending. He decided to set the Illyrian envoys straight and to face the consequences whatever. It was better to be taken to the police now than to be taken on a train for an unknown destination. Dignified and stern, he declared:
- You are mistaken, gentlemen, I am not your King and I can prove it.
The secretary was going to answer but the colonel pre-empted him. The nice man was literally boiling and he couldn't understand why his prince was so rebellious against his duty. He was too much of a military person not to have contempt for diplomacy in general and embassy secretaries in particular. He found that things were not going fast enough and he wanted the matter settled at once, with force if necessary. He exclaimed in a loud voice:
- Sire! You cannot shirk your responsibilities. During twelve years, you refused to come back to your country. Now, your country is calling you; you have to take your place on the throne. You must go back at once!
He spoke vehemently and the secretary stood apart declining all responsibilities on what could happen as the colonel had failed to honour his commitments. Nevertheless, he was with him wholeheartedly and resolved to bring back the King dead or alive. Tito, streaming with sweat, struggled with a cruel uncertainty. Was it better to gain time or to be arrested immediately after telling the truth? Only, in spite of his energy, he wasn't quite sure of himself.
- I'll follow you gladly; he declared looking right and left for an exit. But I…I must go back to the circus. I must go to see somebody there…somebody who is waiting for me.
The colonel still in front of the door nodded. He knew this kind of excuses.
- No, Sire! He replied frankly. You already gave this kind of excuse to our Paris attaché when he came to see you six month ago. At that time, it wasn't the circus; it was the Folies-Bergère.
The secretary, annoyed by the constant interruptions, came to the rescue.
- Sire, I assure you, you must follow us. We have very strict orders. Our government obtained the authorisation from the Italian government. You are its host; you are just tolerated. We are allowed to use the armed forces to bring you to the frontier. If you don't follow us in good will, you'll be expelled, respectfully expelled. Then, believe us, follow us now, Sire, it's in your own interest and that of your country.
And the colonel insisted:
- We have already seen it to your journey and booked a ticket in a sleeping coach for you. A good place, the whole compartment to ourselves. We already brought some pretty ladies.
Tito understood he wouldn't obtain easily satisfaction from these two stubborn men governed by reasons of State. He had to stall; perhaps to follow them until he could escape. Besides, he thought that he could go to the frontier safely with them, and once there, Tito promised himself he would discover a way to escape the consequences of this unforeseen murder. He decided to go along with the events just when the two envoys thought they would have to use force, something they dreaded probably as much as the King did. And Tito said:
- Then, gentlemen, I yield to your prayers, as they sound inescapable. Please, allow me to write one last letter.
He was asking for the cigarette and the last glass of rum of the convict at death's door.
- But, of course! Said the colonel, we understand very well that you need to bid somebody farewell. Your Majesty can write as many letters as he wants.
Tito smiled ironically:
- Well, then, he said, I see that my appeal is rejected but the court is lenient…You are benevolent executioners.
The colonel didn't understand the joke. He was rather dull and didn't understand subtle nuances. But, the embassy secretary, which was spirited unlike him, approached a chair and a writing case.
-Your Majesty can write, he said.
He was the most dangerous adversary. He knew that a letter always says more and sometimes even informs some indiscreet person who isn't the addressee. Tito settled down. It was naturally to Bianca that he wanted to bid farewell to. Quickly he scribbled a few words on the hotel paper, checking that the envoys couldn't read above his shoulder. The message was only a few lines long:
Bianca, my love,
Something terrible has happened to me. I must go to avoid being accused of a murder; do not torment yourself, dear; I'll go back as soon as I have a chance to do it. To you, all my love and my soul.

He got up and sealed the envelope. The secretary went up to him, keen to help, a bit too keen.
- Your Majesty can give me his letter. I'll see to it.
- It must be delivered immediately, said Tito, it's urgent.
The secretary bowed.
- I'll give it to the hotel porter myself and will do the necessary.
He went out and as soon as he was in the corridor and the door was closed, he looked at the address. A smile passed on his lips. He was right. The address: "Miss Bianca, Barretti Circus" was totally unambiguous.
- I knew it, he whispered, Reasons of State command that I do not send that.
He didn't even wonder if he was committing a fault against an individual's right; princes possess fewer rights than the most humble of their subjects. Without a single scruple, as he was covered by reasons of State, the secretary tore up the letter without even reading it. Afterwards, he threw the pieces in the lift shaft. Then, after waiting for a few minutes in corridor so the King wouldn't suspect anything, he came back and said:
- It's done. We can go at your own convenience, Sire. We'll take care of your luggage and we'll pay the hotel.
It meant in an elegant but clear fashion that they had to go at once. The colonel, obedient, got up, signalled to Tito and the latter followed mechanically. His emotion looked natural and didn't arouse any suspicion from the Illyrian government envoys. They supposed the prince was annoyed to have to go back to his country. Deep down, they thought they would have felt the same in his place and pitied him. The colonel, especially as he was a womanizer himself, would have given the King some more time to settle his intimate affairs if he could have done it. But, he knew that the embassy secretary, in spite of his tender age, wouldn't admit it. We were in one of those exceptional cases when military order has to bow in front of the civilian order. The colonel realised he was there only as a gentleman given mandate to collar the prince if he refused to obey. He asked one last time:
- Are you ready, Sire?
Tito couldn't avoid a sigh of strain.
- I'm ready.
- Then, let's go.
All three went down. Downstairs, the embassy secretary stopped for a minute to speak with the manager and the porter and told them to send his client's luggage to a certain place which he wrote down himself. The hotel manager and director and all the personnel were on the flight of steps standing to attention. They bowed deeply before the King who was leaving. They all knew he was the King to be as a secret doesn't remain hidden for very long in an important hotel such as the Savoia. And also it was good practice and publicity with their customers who watched at a distance this strange ceremony. The director was already planning to send some statement to the press the next day.
Outside, Tito looked at the deserted street, still hoping to escape, but, he felt a grip on his left arm and on his right arm while the voice of the embassy secretary whispered to his ears:
- Allow us to help you, Sire. The night is dark and you could stumble on the pavement or the cobbles as they are both pretty bad.
They took him to a car which was waiting nearby. It was Count Cassatti's own car. But, Tito didn't recognise it.

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Postby feaito » March 5th, 2008, 8:32 pm

Wow, this is getting more interesting! Christine, are there stills showing Colman as the Count and Tito, standing side by side??
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Postby Ann Harding » March 6th, 2008, 3:18 am

Well, Fernando, I don't know. I have never seen one. My guess is probably not as they wouldn't want to give away too much the plot. :wink:

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Postby feaito » March 6th, 2008, 5:22 am

You are probably right about that.

Coming to think of it, this double role predated his roles in "Prisoner of Zenda".
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Postby Ann Harding » March 6th, 2008, 6:10 am

Actually, Colman played also a double role in the Masquerader (1933). :)

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Postby Ann Harding » March 6th, 2008, 2:20 pm

Here is the last chapter of Part One. After this chapter, I'll make a little break between the two parts.

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Chapter XVI
Bianca's discovery

Bianca and Father Barretti were still engaged in talks with the hotel manager. Bianca was resolved not to take for granted the explanation given to her. She came to know the truth. She knew Tito had come to see Cassatti and she knew the latter as a dangerous man and was determined to find Tito at all cost. So, she spoke frankly, risking everything. She seemed so disturbed that it didn't escape the manager's notice. He was an honest man not lacking in humanity.
- I am going to see if the director can receive you, he said.
A few minutes elapsed. The director came in person, surprised by the numerous adventures filling up this unique evening and making his hotel an historical place. He received the visitors in his private office where he listened to Bianca's story that didn't hide anything from him. Then again, her anxiety brought her some sympathy from this man who wasn't moved easily. She told him how she paid a visit to Count Cassatti and how she had to leave the room. The director was rather surprised, but said nothing. He seemed rather pleased by the thought that Cassatti called for higher office had left his hotel.
- Finally, concluded Bianca, clown Tito, my colleague, came to look for me. I am certain he didn't leave before seeing your client. Perhaps, he is still with him? Help me, sir…Come upstairs with us; I feel some tragedy happened…didn't you hear anything?
She begged him, holding her hands together. Father Barretti approved all her words, but, he nearly fell down when he heard the director announce:
- The person we knew under the name Count Cassatti is the new King of Illyria. I saw him one hour ago with the men who came to fetch him. The man you talked about wasn't with them, I assure you. He probably left beforehand.
Bianca couldn't hold back her tears. And the director, who didn't lack humanity when he saw a pretty girl crying, resolved to make a personal inquiry about the events preceding the King of Illyria's departure. He learned that one man had climbed to the Count's apartment and was looking for a lady. He didn't say more. Nobody had seen him go down; the valet was categorical. When he had gone into the Count's suite, a few minutes later after hearing the noise of a violent fight, or something to that effect, he had found the Count alone. He certified under oath that it was the count, as he had been fooled by Tito like everybody else. The director listened to his testimony with great attention.
- Well! He said, we'll make some inquiry in the apartment. Nevertheless, miss, he added turning towards a prostrated Bianca, I beg you, stop crying. I wouldn't like the customers to notice anything unusual. You must know that the Savoia Hotel is a first class hotel where nothing ever happens.
Admittedly, it was a respectable opinion, but the reader can realise that Mister Director wasn't always aware of the dramas happening in his hotel rooms.
They arrived on the first floor and went into the empty room. Immediately Bianca started calling for Tito. Nobody answered. The anteroom and living-room didn't show any trace of fight. The furniture had been put back up by Tito. It wasn't the same in the bedroom. They had to use a torch because of the broken light bulb. And Bianca who was still looking around discovered an object which increased her mortal anxiety. It was Tito's cap. It was on the bedroom's carpet. She picked it up, shaking. Suddenly her eyes were drawn to shiny object on the wall. A steel blade was swaying slowly as if an invisible hand was still holding it. She saw it was the Count's sword stuck into the wall. Tito has thrown it there after pulling it from Cassatti's hand. Bianca pulled it carefully from the wall, fearing to understand too well the drama. But, as she moved one more step, she made another ever worse discovery. The window attracted her attention. Father Barretti who was searching as well like a policeman, suddenly cried:
- Oh! Look at that!
He showed the window-pane which was broken. Bianca ran towards him and all three after opening the window looked down the abyss. The director, disturbed by this tragedy he felt had happened, declared, shaking his head:
- If a man fell down there, you'll never see him again.
Bianca moaned and hid her face in her hands which was still holding Tito's cap, trying to stifle her sobs. The crisis resolved itself for her. She suffered horribly and in her brain, the drama looked clearer. Tito had attacked the count and during the fight, the latter had thrown him through the window. How could it be otherwise? As Count Cassatti had gone according to all testimonies, she couldn't doubt them. It was Tito who had died. She didn't think anymore about Tito's and the count's likeness. As she knew Tito intimately, she could have told them apart. She couldn't make a mistake. She forgot that the Illyrian envoys had not seen their prince for years and that the director had not seen clearly Tito's face with his hat when he left the Savoia Hotel. However, she asked again to put her mind at rest:
- Are you sure, Sir, that it was Cassatti who came down and left with these gentlemen?
And the director sure of himself, unable to imagine a substitution in his well attended hotel, replied, very sorry to witness her pain:
- I am absolutely certain, miss. No doubt is possible.
Then Bianca understood there wasn't any thing more to do in this place. She let Father Barretti drag her out, while trying -in vain- to soothe away her pain. She didn't regain her composure until she reached the circus. Father Barretti had wanted to lodge a complain at the police station, but she refused to do it. She knew all too well that she wouldn't get any justice in such a case. She knew that foreign interference in a case of murder wouldn't give any freedom to the police.
- I'll take care of this affair myself; she said when her tears had dried. And I swear, my dear Father Barretti, that the murderer won't escape me. I'll follow him to hell.
And the next day, she left the circus, leaving her comrades desolate and his director inconsolable not only for the loss in this show and for the pain he felt in his tender heart.

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » March 8th, 2008, 4:27 am

As I wrote earlier, I want to make a small pause between the two parts of the novelization.
I just want to give you some details about the production itself. The film was produced by Samuel Goldwyn and released through UA. The director, Henry King, made some fantastic masterpieces during the silent era, particularly, Tol'able David (1920), the White Sister (1923), The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) and Stella Dallas (1925). This picture was his 5th and last one with Ronald Colman. he was responsible for his discovery in a Broadway theatre in 1922. The cinematographer was George Barnes, at the time, the mentor of young Gregg Toland. The assistant director was Robert Florey, a young French man who worked also with Chaplin in films such as Monsieur Verdoux.
I have a few rare stills showing the shooting.
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Henry King directing Colman (as Cassatti) and Shirley Palmer (the Wife)

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Henry King with Colman and Vilma Banky

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Henry King again with Colman and Banky preparing for the scene in chapter XI.

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Relaxing on the set. Colman with a banjo, William Borzage (Frank's brother) with an accordion, Vilma Banky center and right-hand side, assistant director, Robert Florey.

I would like to hear from you what you thought of the plot so far. I know this novelization is not great literature, sometimes a trifle repetitive, but, this is best 'description' of the picture I could find. As the film is for the moment lost, we have no way to discover it better.
What do you think?

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feaito
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Postby feaito » March 9th, 2008, 8:57 am

I have liked very much the story and once again I thank you for the effort of bringing back to us "The Magic Flame".

The plot is somewhat reminiscent of "The Prisoner Zenda" in some uncanny way, although the Count is more like Rupert of Hentzau than King Rudolf!
Life is Beautiful.

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » March 9th, 2008, 10:37 am

That's for sure, the crown Prince is a complete villain! I think Colman relished the challenge to play to totally nasty character.

Another piece of information regarding the film is this vintage review from the New York Times. I removed a small portion of it as it contained a lot of spoilers! :wink:

The Clown as King.
By MORDAUNT HALL.
Published: September 19, 1927
An ingeniously contrived and magnificently photographed production, with the contrasting backgrounds of life under a circus tent and that in the palace of a mythical kingdom, has been wrought by Henry King out of Rudolph Lothar's novel, "King Harlequin," which for reasons best known to Samuel Goldwyn, the producer, comes to the Rialto Theatre screen as "The Magic Flame." In this film it falls to Ronald Colman's lot to impersonate both a sympathetic clown and a rascally prince, while Vilma Banky, the lovely Hungarian actress, plays the part of a stellar trapeze performer with the wagon show; she is adored by the humble follower of Grimaldi and she also attracts the vagrant eye of the heir to Illyria's throne.
Mr. King has pictured the various incidents of this story in an imaginative fashion and his introduction of the Clown, Tito, is excellent. At first the features of Roland Colman are hidden under putty and greasepaint, but this Clown sits at a mirror and gradually wipes off the disguise until the well-known physiognomy of the popular player is revealed.
It is, of course, a highly romantic affair, but the scenes in the circus are brilliantly filmed. After an exciting happening, Mr. King turns his camera to the unperturbed countenance of the circus band leader. This director has also accomplished remarkable effects by soft shadows and the close-ups of both Mr. Colman and Miss Banky fit in nicely with the action of the narrative.
The comedy in the circus scenes is very well done, for although some of the tricks are ancient they belong to this type of show. There is the strong man who awes the audience with his lifting of prodigious weights and then there is the clown and his absurdities.
Tito and the prince resemble each other like the proverbial two peas. The Prince's father dies, and after the heir apparent, like Humpty Dumpty, is beyond picking up by all the king's horses and all the king's men, Tito finds himself bound to accompany Illyria's noblemen to the royal palace or be arrested for the murder of the Prince.
...............................
Throughout this good-natured and interesting romance there are some joyous situations. At first one is impelled to regret Mr. King's permitting the trapeze artist to leap out of a window, but when she happily saves herself by clinging to a tree one realizes that it is her circus stunts that serve her in good stead.
............................
Mr. Colman fills the dual rôle with much artistry. His mustache is longer and neatly curled as the Prince. This Prince also wears a monocle. The clown has put a faint suggestion of a mustache and his face does not appear to be as well nourished as that of the Prince.
Miss Banky is attractive enough as the circus performer, but after the Chancellor has bought her one of Illyria's latest creations, she is stunning. Miss Banky also delivers a competent performance. Gustav von Seyffertitz is splendid as the Chancellor.


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