(Correction made my precious Nila)
Standing in front of the window of his bedroom with his arms crossed behind his back, Count Contarini looked at the sky growing pale with pastel colours with an inattentive eye. He had not slept a wink all night and, tired of turning and turning again in his bed, he had ended by getting up and searching for something that would entertain him as he waited for the other inhabitants to wake up. On several times, he attempted to go to Terry's bedroom to push him, to admonish him severely, because what he had witnessed few hours ago had revolted him. But each time, he had stopped himself, understanding that the young man needed his support more than his reproaches. It would be early enough to talk about that incident with him and try to give a meaning to it. The dreadful scene perpetually turned in his mind. With a thrill of horror, he imagined what would have happened if he was one second too late, unable to rescue him.
-What madness had crossed his mind ? - he wondered, sighing sadly. He well suspected that it was about the young woman Terry had told him about and who exalted his voice each time he evoked her. But he did not imagine that it would lead him to an irreversible action. However, he had begun to get worried when, in the afternoon, his butler and right-arm Roberto who had been sent after Candy, had returned to announce some unexpected difficulties : that Miss Andrew was nowhere to be found, but a vague rumour about her presence in town was whispering and swelling, bit by bit. The only problem was that she was not supposed to be alone, even worse, she was supposed to be married !... The Count had immediately called one of his acquaintances nicknamed “The Gazette of Venice”, a real woman of gossip, but someone who remained the best source of information when it concerned the latest tabloid of the elite. That latter had confessed to him that a reporter had contacted her during the morning to ask her confirmation of a certain news that he had received from his boss in New-York. The Andrew family was not very well-known in Europe, and even less by Sir Capwell, but the fact that an American journalist was interested in that couple served as incontestable proof, so well that the rumour had slowly spread, certainly in the Venetian salons. It did not take much to entertain all those happy people who were very fond of gossip, even the most trifling ones. Following his investigations, still assisted by his faithful Roberto, the Count had gone to the Baglioni hotel. The receptionist had begun to shake when the Count had explained to him the reason of his visit, and had stepped back, fearing a new assault. Placing confidence, he ended up telling what had happened earlier, describing the impulsive reaction of that English visitor who had quite terrorized him. But what had alarmed the Count was when he learnt how Terry had left afterwards, looking gloomy, without a word.
For Christ's sake !!! Why didn't he wait for the Miss and confront her with her contradictions ? At the same age, I would have been able to break everything before such betrayal!...
Then he had realized that a very violent emotional shock could bring you down and leave you without any reaction, devastated, as if killed on the spot... You would lose all reason, nothing would have any meaning nor interest, not even your own life... He had known that terrible sorrow once, and fortunately his best friend was with him that day because inwardly, he knew that what had crossed his mind at that time deserved their concern... Here, the young Grandchester, unfortunately, did not have any friend to share his distress with. He was at the mercy of a desperate act that could take possession of him at any moment. He had to catch him as quickly as possible !
The Count and his butler had then decided to separate to increase their chance in finding him sooner, but it was without taking into account the tangle of canals and streets that they had to wander ! He could be anywhere ! On the eve of the night, empty-handed and disappointed, they had reconvened at San Marco square. Exhausted by those long hours of walking, the Count had felt the need to sit down at a café terrace to catch his breath for a few minutes. Luckily, he had chosen the Caffé Florian. As the server asked him what he wanted to order to drink, the old man, with no real conviction asked him for the hundredth times, if he had seen a young English man around. As he described the young man, the waiter had opened wide his eyes and nodded frenetically in agreement.
-You've just missed him ! He was just here five minutes ago !
-Do you know which direction he took ?
-That side, towards the Campanile ! You should hurry. He did not look very well !...
The Count had jumped up and ran towards the high brick tower, as fast as his poor legs could. When he arrived there, Roberto, who was younger and in better shape, had proposed to climb up the stairs to the top. If Terry was there, he would not be able to avoid him. With his heart beating, the Count had waited at the base of the tower with the oppressing anguish of suddenly seeing the body of his young protégé falling down and crashing on the floor. Chasing that dismal thought from his mind, he had begun to look around him, trying in the growing obscurity, to perceive a face which could be familiar to him. But Terry's was not a part of them. The temperature had lowered with nightfall and a fresh draught coming from the canal along the Doges Palace, had begun to freeze him. Trying to warm up, he had begun to stomp his feet, his hands deeply plunged into the pockets of his jacket. His gaze had then stopped over the dark street behind him which sank towards the canal. It was then that he had that strange feeling, that something tragic was happening there. He had come closer, trying to discern among the black silhouettes of the gondolas, a human shape that he would recognize. That cursed draught seemed more and more aggressive at that side and he would have easily gone to take shelter if he had not been intrigued by a shadow which was moving slowly towers the edge of the canal. He had taken a few more steps towards it and that's when he recognized his young protégé whose body, leaning forward, threatened to fall down into the dark water. At that moment, he had understood what that latter was doing and gathering all his strength, he had stretched, with a shout of rage, a vigorous arm towards him as he was toppling. It had happened so fast ! In the midst of it, the Count had closed his eyes and shut them very tight, expecting with great fear the noise of his body encountering the water. But he had heard nothing of that, except Terry's tormented voice. When he had opened his eyes, the old man had seen his fingers crooked with age, still grasping the jacket collar of his protégé. He had finally released it, trembling. Seeing him, Terry's wet eyes had shined with surprise and when he had thrown himself into his arms, sobbing like a child, the old aristocrat had felt the poison of the powerlessness invading his heart, cursing the fate that harassed the men of the Grandchester family...
But now as the night had passed over that sad event, numerous questions were assailing him : Who then, was that Capwell, that very rich American business man that nobody knew ? Why had the Andrew family pushed Terry to go to Venice while hiding the truth from him? Why didn’t anyone hear about that wedding earlier ? All of this seemed very confusing to the Count and it required answers. One cannot be satisfied with rumours displayed by a tabloid newspaper. It was necessary to dig deeper and get to the root, that was to say : find the reporter, and above all, get in contact with the Andrew family. If that Miss was really married, his family was best suited to confirm it ! It was also necessary to reassure his host who had so little confidence in himself that he was able to believe the least of nonsense. He wanted that doubt mingled in him. Prosper Mérimée, a great French writer from the XIXth century had a motto “Remember to mistrust”, a motto that he had borrowed from the Greek poet and philosopher Epicharme, and that he had engraved inside a ring. In this present case, it took its full meaning. It was sane intellectually and morally to be able to say no, to doubt everything and not be blinded by what could appear as evidence. The devil poured on all things a drop of absinthe, and that devil, with copper-coloured ringlets and peppery fragrance, had succeeded in intoxicating his judgement, in removing from him all perspicacity by relying on his weakness : the intimate conviction that he did not deserve to be loved, even less from someone as wonderful as Candy...
Determined to act as quickly as possible, the Count thought that it was time to wake up and shake that young idiot who was sleeping at the other side of the hall. The time had come to take remove his dark thoughts and to bring hope back to him, because as tiny it was, there was always some, and he would prove it to him.
It was then that he got startled, surprised by the vigorous knocking against his door, which he opened widely on his butler, breathless and obviously panicked.
-L... Lord Grandchester, sir !
-He... He's gone !!!!
(Translation made by myself, so please, forgive the mistakes ! )
Sitting on bench of the Santa Lucia Railways Station, Terry could not prevent his legs from moving with impatience. He wanted to leave this town as fast as possible. The stationmaster had told him that the first morning train was arriving soon. He did not care about the destination. The only thing he wanted was to go to the North and move away quickly from Venice. All along the night, he had thought and come to the conclusion that he had nothing more to do in that place, that it would have been ridiculous to try and see Candy in those conditions. Anyway, he would never have had the courage to face her. What legitimacy he would have been able to claim for going and embarrassing her with his presence? She had turned the page. She had taken the right and the best decision. He would have never been able to make her happy and she had understood it since a long time yet. He was not made for happiness. It was a state he had always run away from, since his childhood, as if it were a threat. As for the rare moments of grace he had known, Candy had been the only one who had enabled them to be real. In return, he had only brought tears and regrets to her. If so, how could he have thought, hoped to be able to recover her while everything was already lost? How could he have swindled himself that way? In the bottom of himself, he had always known that it was just pure madness, and that madness had exploded to his face the night before. It had the effect of destroying all emotion in him. He was like anaesthetized, drained of any feeling. Nothing mattered anymore and he knew that it would be what would dictate his life nowadays: never becoming attached to somebody anymore for never having to suffer anymore...
He thought back about the Count Contarini who had been so good with him. What a strange being, who cleverly handled cynicism and mockery, and who critically evaluated the society from which he voluntarily stayed apart. But, beside this, he had shown to him a sensitivity, a generosity of soul that he would have never suspected from him. The emotion he had seen in his eyes, on the edge of the canal, and the unexpected fatherly gesture he had had towards him, still bowled him over inside. This is why he had left that morning, at dawn. He was too ashamed of what he had done and he did not want to justify himself about it. How to find the words to describe what is unspeakable ? He had then settled for a succinct letter in which he thanked the Count for all that he had done for him. He also explained to him that he could not stay in Venice, that he felt the urgent need to leave and move away as fast and far as possible from what reminded him all that he wanted to forget. Once again, he had to admit it, he was running away. He was running away as he had run away from Saint-Paul, as he had run away from Candy in New York, ten years before. His existence had only been a following of evasions. He hated himself for his lack of courage and was not proud of what characterized him : a coward, a poltroon, a spineless person. A weakness of character from which he could have enumerated a list to endlessly. How would he have been able to fight for the love of his life while he hated himself so much? He knew that there was no solution...
He plunged his beautiful face into the hollow of his hands and sighed with consternation. His elbows in support on his knees, his head leaning between his legs, his fingers finely displayed on his temples, he began to stare the cement floor mottled with little pebbles. But none answer came to ease his interrogations. He knew that he had to renounce to believe in the impossible. At that time, what he wanted most in the world, was to come back home to take refuge in the only thing able to soften his pain: theatre... He knew that it could not heal him totally but that it would at least allow him to have the force to wake up each morning. That possibility did not make overflow his heart with enthusiasm but he had to get prepared to that life now. To be true, it was not a real stranger to him. He knew too much that feeling of melancholy, of moral distress that had accompanied him all along those years without Her, and that had vanished as soon as she had reappeared. But now, all his hopes were only ruins, he had found back that painful routine that would get you bogged down in a deep sadness, in a slowing down of the soul and gestures that would obstruct all your thoughts and would guide you like an automaton. He was in this state of mind as he sat up straight on hearing the strident shouts of the train arriving in the station. He stood up and moved forward to the platform. The big vaporous clouds that breathed the locomotive as it broke, enveloped the place and gave to it the appearances the river Thames banks under the fog in the early morning. He waved in and out among the passengers getting off the train, got on a wagon and went to the bottom and sat down. People were getting on and sitting around him. His head leaning against the windowpane, he looked outside with a heavy heart, watching out for the whistle of departure. Still more few seconds and he would be far from here. That simple thought was making him feverish and tied his stomach. As soon as the train would start, there would not be any possibility of return. It would be over...
It was then that raising voices coming from the other side of the wagon, rang out and captured the actor's attention. He looked up and saw a group of people laden with luggage, coming in and settling down noisily on the seats around him. Then he caught sight a young man wearing plaster at one of his legs, who was moving forward in the aisle with difficulty, held on one side and on the other by two sturdy colleagues. He was getting reprimanded by a little man behind him that he could not see distinctly but whose voice sounded familiar to him. That latter, pulling a heavy suitcase looked very irritated.
- Hurry up and move, clumsy oaf!!!
- I'd like to see you in my shoes! You are not the one who has a broken leg!
- If you had not slipped while running after that hotel waitress, you would not be in that situation! And we would not be now in dire straits!!! Hey, sit down here before I break your other leg!
The young man got placed on the still vacant seats along which he set down his injured leg. His interlocutor sat down in front of him and had not finished with him obviously.
- Get smart with me, you know!!! How are we going to do now since you can't walk ??? Who is going to replace you for Romeo, tell me? Dougie, may be??? - He exclaimed, speaking with a chin movement to a tranquil and well paunchy man who was busy to stuff down a huge panini.
- Bahhhh, pffff, I don't know! ... - Said the disabled one with rolling eyes, tired of all those reproaches.
- You don't know, YOU-DON'T-KNOW!!! I'm going to tell you “Mr You don't know”, if you could stop letting you guide by what is located under your belt and serves you as your brain, you would avoid us many troubles! Because that one is particularly something and I've no idea how we are going to get out of it!!! We are supposed to perform in two days, and we don't have any Romeo!!! - He shouted out to anyone who would listen, waving his harms with disappointment.
- Ask Elliott, he did replace me once! ...
- It's like asking my grandma to get landed with it! ... It was catastrophic, you know it!
- Hey, ho ! Please, I'm hearing everything! - Replied the aforesaid Elliott, vexed.
- Who asked you ?!!! Mind we've not forgotten anything, whether not you are running the risk of being in the same state of your colleague. I'm not in the mood, trust me!!!
- I've known you more cheerful, though, Sid! ...
- Wh... Who said that??? - Exclaimed the choleric man, standing up from his seat. He turned towards the bottom of the wagon and noticed a male figure that was approaching him. Coming closer, he asked, without any certitude:
-Terrence??? Terrence Graham???
- In flesh and bones! - Answered Terry, with a mischievous smile on the corner of his lips – Ah Sid, I was doubting at first, but when you lost your temper, I was sure it was you! Hahahaha !
Bloody Sidney Wilde! ... A feisty character that led to him many altercations with Robert Hathaway, the manager of the Stratford Company, so that he had to leave the troupe finally. Terry had not seen him for many years. He knew he had been to Europe, that he had founded his own company, but he would have never imagined to see him again here, in Venice! With a little stature and a bit overweight that pulled on the buttons of his vest, he had kept that humorous allure that characterized him. His hair had whitened and become sparse, but he still had those big blue eyes topped by bushy eyebrows that devoured his chubby face. He was staring at Terry, his mouth wide-opened of stupefaction.
- Well blow me down! Terry, what a surprise!!! - He shouted out as he embraced warmly his friend – You are really the last person I was expecting to meet here! What are you doing in Italy, then???
I am, how can I put it? ... I am on vacation... - answered that latter with embarrassment.
On vacation? Lucky you! - Sighed his old theatre fellow – I'm on tour for the whole summer with my troupe, and here is that dreadful idiot, that incorrigible womanizer, who lets me down because he is UN-A-BLE to control his hormones!!!
The fair-haired fop, recipient of those virulent words, sank a bit deeper in his seat, blushing of humiliation.
- Good Lord! What am I going to do??? - Moaned the poor man as he turned towards Terry – We are expected for the summer festival of Verona. We are playing in two days and I've no one to replace him. I'm not going to play Romeo instead of him! Can you imagine, at almost fifty years old, with white pantyhose, satnding under Juliet's balcony ? I would look pathetic! ...
- I would not say pathetic, but comical, certainly !
Sidney shrugged, sighing with discouragement. He dropped on the seat, and leaned against the back, thoughtful. The members of his troupe were observing him in silence, not daring to say a word with the fear to once again provoke his anger. Suddenly, his gaze lighted up, and enquired at Terry, with a strange smile that revealed two beautiful rows of teeth.
- What about you playing Romeo ?
Terry blemished and began to wave his forefinger with virulence.
- Excuse-me???? No, no, no !!!
- Yes, yes! - Nodded vigorously his interlocutor – You are on vacation, right? You can then replace that other idiot (that he pointed contemptuously with his hand), and take that thorn out of our side!
- Well... I'm on my way back. And, it's been long time since I haven't played that role...
He had to find a better excuse as fast as possible!!!
But the fifty-something man was not listening to him, obsessed by the brainwave that had just crossed his mind. That time, he was standing very close to him, pointing a determined noise towards the young man who was slowly stepping back towards the bottom of the wagon.
- You cannot clear off, Terry ! You are the only one who can get us over that difficult situation. You know that role perfectly, I saw you playing it hundreds times admirably! I'm begging you, don't let us fall down!
- It's not possible... - he answered, shaking negatively his head. His heart was racing. He was feeling trapped and he could no even jump by the window to run away.
Running away one again...
With folding hands and puppy eyes worthy of the Queen of England's corgis, Sidney was imploring him.
- Mercyyyy! - He whined between his hands, feeling that Terry was slipping away from him. But finally, feeling beaten, that latter muttered :
- All right...
- All right ? You really said all right???
- Yes, I did – he said with a sigh of exasperation – But at one condition!
- Every thing you want!
- I want to be left in peace! I want to eat, sleep, repeat where and when I want. In a word, I want to be ALONE!
- Ok, as long as you are there at each performance, I don't see any problem with that! You've stayed the wild man you used to be.
- I've not improved with years...
- So it be! - His old pal chuckled, holding out a knowing hand to him – Welcome to the Sidney Wilde's troupe, my friend! And first of all, thank you!
Radiant an relieved, he turned to his actors who stood up immediately and applauded, chanting Terry's name, whistling, some of them making triumphal swirl fists above their head. Sidney applauded him too and the gaze clouded with tears he sent to him testified all the gratitude he vowed to him. Terry's doubts vanished right away and he felt his heart warming up. For once, he was not running away. During a moment, he had stopped feeling sorry for himself and had accepted to help his friend, even if that cost him. Oddly, the weight of what oppressed him disappeared, and he also began to smile. Coming back was going to be longer than planned but it did not matter anymore as long as he was going away from Venice and from its disillusions. As for greeting his gesture, the train emitted several whistle hits that got lost in the vineyards in which it was passing through. Lustred with the morning dew, vine stocks leaves were shining brightly under the early sunrays. Venice was very far yet... Terry felt the weight on his heart again, but that time, on a softer way. His breath was less mechanical and more serene and he appreciated the moment of it. He knew that it would not last eternally but he was grateful of the break he was getting offered. He sat down and closed his eyes, a melancholic smile appearing on his lips. Swung by the regular pace of the train, he, without fighting, gave up to a sleep without dream, exhausted of too much fatigue, ignoring that the distance was getting him closer to his fate...