The Alibi of 'O'
trans: BY BILL KERSEY
PARIS: Inside the church of Saint-Sulpice 30 June 1968. An overcast day.
Music; "Good King Dagobert", an extract from a concert entitled " "Apotheosis", composed to the immortal memory of the incomparable setting of Lully by J.B. Couperin in 1725."
A girl (Marie Madeleine) tries to photograph "Heliodore Driven from the Temple", the famous fresco by Delacroix that decorates the chapel of the Angels . She doesn't manage to simultaneously manage both her camera and her flash. Some laughter ensues with various jokes.
Enter Charlot, who by his mimic expresses his satisfaction of having signed, with a publisher, the contract that is going to launch his romance "Circuit" into the premier rank of the works of the 20th Century.
Marie Madeleine: Forgive me, sir would you mind holding my flash?
The astonishment of Charlot on recognising Madeleine who he had not seen for six months. She explains to him that she is making some slides for the religious history course that she is giving the day after tomorrow at Notre Dame de Marseille.
Charlot marvels: "He is booked to go right there tomorrow morning by the 9 34; train. Someone has sent him his reserved seat.''
There follows an irreverent interlude as the senior priest wants to forbid them to take any photos without obtaining permission from the priest, who is not there at the time. One might consider the point that, having authority to deny permission, he nevertheless lacks the authority to deliver any authorisations. Thanks to all this dialogue, Marie Madeleine and Charlot only managed to obtain an angle shot of the fresco.
Discovery of Love in the gardens of Luxemburg. Charlot does not know where to lodge from then until the following morning. Marie leads him to her room where she is going in order to develop his slides.
Montmartre. In Marie-Madeleine's room. The windows overlook the Rue Caulaincourt and Rue Joseph de Maitre. There is also a view across the cemetery with the Gaumont-palas in the background.
An erotic interlude ensues and develops to such an extent that the scene could be cut in its entirety from the film. On awakening he perceives that he has missed his 9 34. train. There is a comic scene of his endeavouring to extract himself from the sleeping girl without awakening her.
Marie-Madeleine: Don't get upset about it, my love. The plane belonging to the armed services is at my disposal. You can come with me. You will be there in plenty of time to keep your rendezvous.
There is a landing in a desolate landscape. The small plane takes off again immediately. Charlot is surprised, as he doesn't recognise Marseille. All is explained: Marie-Madeleine has gone to Limoux (Aude) where Notre Dame de Marseille has only a very vague connection with Notre Dame de la Garde at Marseille (Bouches du Rhone). Both of them go to a cafE where they sample a white wine, "Blanquette de Limoux." The owner shows them the historic table where Prosper Merime rewrote sixteen times in succession her novel "Colomba."
The radio announces that the 9.34 train from Paris to Marseille on the 30th June, which was to carry Charlot, was derailed in the outskirts of Lyons, and that his coach was completely destroyed. There follows a display of varied emotions.
Charlot: Whichever way you look at it, somebody will no longer be waiting for me at Notre Dame de la Garde.
Charlot: Somebody who must present me with half of a banknote bearing the head of Victor Hugo. I have the other half of the note that he would present to me.
He (Charlot) shows his half of the banknote. Marie-Madeleine, herself, produces the other half which matches. Both of them then produce their own documents and compare them.
Harpsichord music is playing Mozart in pop style interrupted by several claps of thunder. A rainstorm follows. Trapped within their room 22 at the Hotel des Thermes Romains at Rennes-les-Bains. Charlot is on the bed; he plays a game of chess with himself. He displays an attitude of profound disgust. He calls check and mate, but has won by the whites but lost by black. He finds himself at stale-mate with himself and this makes him even more disgusted. Marie-Madeleine stands by the window, naked.
Charlot: Why did you wish to send me to Marseille, then it turns out that it is actually you who holds the remainder of the Victor Hugo?
Marie-Madeleine: The truth is that I also was to have gone to Marseille. It was only after our meeting yesterday evening that I received orders to make the change and to fly you out today. I hate to confess that it was not foolish of us to have palmed off some documents that the entire world is aware that The Accursed Treasure. was published by Julliard last year and is now in a J'ai Lu pocket edition. At least.
Charlot: At least what.?
Marie-Madeleine: What is important is not that these documents are in the public domain, but that we have come to see them in their true perspective. In my opinion, we must get our hands on this little book of Gerard de Sede, which is on sale here as common as petit pain loaves of bread, and then follow the indications that it gives.
At Flamand, the bookseller barber of Rennes-les Bains, well into the day, the rain has now ceased. Flamand is cutting Charlot's hair and giving Marie-Madeleine a shampoo, moving from one to the other.
Marie-Madeleine: I am reading page 110. The text has been very cleverly decoded using a double key substitution, then by a transposition by means of the moves and reverse moves on a chessboard. A very complex technique adopted by Commandant Lerville, President of the Association of the Reservists of Code-breakers.
Charlot Regarding the chessboard; in my document there are 128 letters, that is to say, the contents of two chessboards.
Marie-Madeleine: On my one that makes just 128 letters too many for me to make head or tail of it.
They extract letters of the two documents, which Marie-Madeleine: writes in red lipstick on the hairdresser's mirror, in the same order in which they appear.
Being first for Charlot and second for Marie-Madeleine:
Marie-Madeleine: Commandant Lerville mentions once again that errors have been introduced purposely in order to send the reader off on false trails.
Charlot: This soldier is a joker seeing that the mistakes serve admirably to the contrary in order to reveal the key word of eight letters; that is to say: MORT EPEE by the eight spelling mistakes on my document.
Marie-Madeleine is astounded because she sees six mistakes only. Whereas in fact she was unaware that the Lady in question was named Negri d'Ables and not Negre Darles. Both of them are elated at being two points ahead of the expert calculators of the Service of Code-breakers of Commandant Lerville. It remains only to apply the MORTEPEE key word to the two texts, no matter which of them. That of Marie-Madeleine is selected, which, being the second then becomes the third.
That which Commandant Lerville calls "the second key" [double key substitution] is also very much "the second lock". It is the method of applying to the third group of letters, the key formed by the first group [of letters] which is, sinilar.
Marie-Madeleine: There is Commandant Lerville's double chessboard that Gerard de Sede did not succeed in satisfactorily explaining. And now what?
Charlot: And what Eleanor?
Marie-Madeleine: So what Heliodore?
They are standing under the white horse of Saint Sulpice.
Charlot: Under the white horse at Saint Sulpice. You are a genius Marie! This is the most famous key of the secret alphabets - that which one gets with the jump of a horse, i.e. the Knights Tour. It is a game of patience. Make a lone knight leap over all the squares of the chessboard without passing over the same square. Unfortunately, neither I nor you know the game, the sequence or even if we did one could reckon on a hundred or so solutions during which it would need wasting days, perhaps even months!
Marie-Madeleine burst into tears.
Marie-Madeleine: My kingdom for a horse.
Charlot: The fortune hard to find [?under the hoof of a horse].
In the dining room of the Hotel des Thermes Romains, a lunch scene. Marie-Madeleine and Charlot. It is done. The door bangs in the wind. An ebony figure in empire style represents an angel standing upon a sphere and holding a crown, with four bees clustered together.
Charlot: The angel! The bees, which form a cross! The Chapel of the Angels is the church at Rennes-les-Bains? Or is it the cemetery?
Marie-Madeleine: It must be over there, it seems to me.
Charlot: Come! Let us go.
They arrive to the church and pass in the cemetery where grows a superb lime tree.
Charlot: Thank goodness for the shade of the lime. We are roasting! Between the lime and the church lies the tomb we seek.
They discover the tomb of Jean Vie referred to in their pocket edition on page 125.
Here rests JEAN VIE Born in 1808 Appointed Vicar in 1840 Died the 1er 7bre 1872 Pray for him.
Charlot: There is the game of chess for you; 1808-1840 and 1840 - 1872 or the 32 white years, 32 black years. Wait, wait, the cemetery, the passage [way] of the cross, the way of cross to Saint Sulpice . On the station of the cross in the chapel of the angels what was it that was it that had been written there after " VIIth station 'Jesus, exhausted again falls"?
Marie-Madeleine: Ah! I remember, it is "Raise me from the mire that don't I remain stuck fast"?
Charlot: There you are, he is stuck in the mud and we must get him out of it.
He digs at the earth on the left side of the tomb. Close to the old tombstone of Fleury. He discovers a strange plate of copper covered in ver-de-gris deeply engraved with a grid. It gives the circuit of the knights leap. He spins round and jumps for joy. After much cleaning in the waters of the Sals that flow just by there, Charlot applies the curcuit to the text of double chessboard as previously stated and produced the following letters:
BERGERES PAS DE TENTATION
QUE POUSSIN, TENIERS GARDENT LE CLEF
J ACHEVE CE DAEMON DE GUARDIEN
Before this new problem Marie-Madeleine's courage fails her. The search; will it ever end?
But, nothing can any longer stop Charlot for whom the words fall out of his mouth quickly. Poussin and Teniers are two painters who became famous by "The Bergers d'Arcadie" for one, and "The Temptation of St Anthony" for the other. Les Bergers belongs to Poussin as The Temptation belongs to Teniers. If they could guard their key/hold the key - is it that there no longer exists the lock [?keyhole] for this object and that the parchments were not there prior to the Revolution, and had no provenance with Anton Bigou but they were from 1861, the era of the third painter.
Marie-Madeleine: What third painter?
Charlot: The one with the Horse of God - it rears up over Heliodore.
Charlot: Citizen Delacroix formerly known as Monsieur de Lacroix.
Marie-Madeleine: But, what about the blue apples?
Charlot: Think about another knight, more recent, his connection with the pommes bleues [i.e apples].
Marie-Madeleine: But, how would my apple possibly be able to become blue at mid-day?
Charlot: The knight, Maurice Chevalier and you are there.
Marie-Madeleine: Yes but how would my apple turn blue at mid-day?
Charlot: What if it is illuminated at noon by the light of a blue stained glass window creating the impression of these apples [or representing apples]? It would not be any midday, for sure, but the one that falls on the 17th January in the chapel of the Angels of Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris at mid-day that would create for you the astronomical head [noon?].
Marie-Madeleine: Amusing, except that there aren't any blue apples on the stained glass window of the chapel of the Angels.
Charlot: Are you sure of that? Really, this is too awful!
Marie-Madeleine: Wait! Yes, there was one there when Delacroix came to inaugurate the fesque. The stained glass window represented Adam and Eve driven from Paradise because of a blue apple that the angel had thrown to the ground. This stained glass window was mysteriously broken in 1900, then replaced the following year by another one.
Marie-Madeleine: How come perfect? If the pomme bleue is smashed what could anyone possibly do?
Charlot: That the apple is blue or that the blue is an apple doesn't have any relevance then it only needs to put your apple in the correct position and then watch what takes place [since all that matters is for you to position your head at the right place within the allocated time and then look].
Marie-Madeleine: To watch what?
Charlot: The horse of God, that is to say the one of Heliodore driven from the Temple. Also there is a detail, which can be seen in one particular place only [from where you are there is a detail that cannot be seen from anywhere else].
Marie-Madeleine: Then it seems that we are obliged to return to Paris.
Charlot: Various things seem to tell me that the skies [heaven] are on our side. Do you wish to select a good place where this dubious hotel might be removed to? Of a truth, the profile of a horse gives a geographical profile [or geographic region], the map of Rennes-les-Bains, and the itinerary to the treasure.'
The journey of Charlot and Marie-Madeleine lies through a land that appears torn by accidents of nature. A landscape marked by the contrast between dark rock and of white rock.
Marie-Madeleine: And "PAX DCLXXXI" what does this all mean?
Charlot: If you translate it into Arabic numerals it gives 681, a play upon the number 1,681 and with 1861, the date of the Delacroix painting. Historically the 17th January 681 marks the arrival in Rennes of the "Rejeton Ardent", the son of king Dagobert II. He is the Lorraine survivor on the white horse of Meroveaus Levi. As regards PAX, it is the inscription of peace [or on the Labarum], the golden oriflamme preserved at Saint-Benyon [Denis] - the red flag who will lead us on to victory.
Marie-Madeleine: Then what must I do?
Charlot: Assist me, wherever it might be, and the place that I mark with a cross on the map in whatever way, I will be able to find it. [Wait here, or over there, at the place i marked with a cross on the map. In any event i will find you].
Landscape of rocks and of thorns. Charlot, strips to his waist and grovelling on all fours in a rugged sloping crevice - he climbs a rough slope - carrying, for his only baggage two electric pocket torches.
Charlot: I salute all you others, an explorer of Montferrand and of Cardou riddled with tunnels in the churches and cemeteries!
After a last and rapid glance at the landscape he penetrates boldly into a crevice/crack [called a catin] where one would pass by a thousand times without discovering/noticing it. The way forward is via a narrow neck. After a brief journey, which seemed never ending, there is a branching tunnel/junction in a pool [or cesspit]. Cellis or Arcis? Right or left? Lets go for the left and long live the King. He enters, crawling flat on his stomach into a whitish mineral patina the fumes from which brings tears to his eyes and makes him cough... After about thirty metres he meets a smooth and vertical wall where the previous stalwarts had carved several niches as footholds. At the sixth niche there is a small gully of running water: Charlot almost loses his balance. His knee knocks harshly against the stone. He scrambles painfully to the top, onto a solid rock platform across which he moves forward like a limping ghost, plastered with smears of white and the blood which trickles all the way down his leg.
The sepulchre of the Great Roman stands in the centre of the platform, immediately beneath where the arches of the high vaulted ceiling cross. Two inscriptions on the memorial pedestal upon which the lead coffin, tightly sealed, show not the least signs of damage. Charlot kisses the coffin. As regards to treasure, there is not the slightest trace, except in the partitions of the vaulted arch, where there is perhaps a faint glimmer of copper. Several cellar rooms extend for some distance but they stretch beyond the light of his torch/lamps' beam. There is a deadly passage under a crumbling arch. Here is the right hand passage that Charlot thanks heavens for having avoided.
The cellars are flooded right up to knee height but there is one that he can get through on all fours along a narrow lateral wall that is made up of tiles that have been piled, one upon the other, without any bonding/cement. The whitish ceiling is rather crumbly. Prudent progress is important. Charlot stops in order to take a breather and lights his second lamp,and, here it's the old story of killing time, just to see how the tilers of ancient times worked, so he picks up a tile.
It is a very heavy tile because it is made of gold which showed up when one scrapes the scum off with a finger nail. With just one tile like that it would provide the means of living comfortably for two years, and there is miles of them here, so much, say some, as recounted in the ballads of Arab. But to drag this one tile, all the way back on hands and knees when you are in the cold and can see behind you this small trickle of blood which already marks out the route, then the life one has left behind becomes more beautiful, life is not fun anymore What merde!
Charlot - bloody hell
The echo: Merde! Hell!
He replaces his tile on the little wall, from where he took it, and covers it with dust, just as he found it, pursues his journey in the cellar and reappears from behind the tomb of the Grand Roman, the way he had come. The smooth wall that he once had scaled, if with some difficulty, now seemed precipitous to Charlot making him dizzy at the prospect of descending. So he decided to select an alternative route. The route leads to a passage with light at the end of the tunnel. Here comes the horror: the cavern which leads to the light is the residence of the sentinels of the Grand Roman. These are the dead, trapped in a hole - who wave their tiles just as the dregs of humanity would brandish their steel as they hone their blades. These are the dead of some very different era, there is among them some perfect skeletons, and some faces so well preserved by the atmospheric conditions that one would say that they were stars from a Grevin museum.
Charlot: Terribilis est locus iste.
He infiltrates among the dead, slips on a tibia bone, bangs his head against a skull which detaches from its trunk with a dry crunch. His hand looks for a support and finds a round object, a piece of coinage. The glaring rays of the sun strike into the cave illuminating various pots that have been heaped up. Here is the deposit of a small millionaire priest. Once again illuminated by lamplight. Charlot crouches over the empty vessels. This is a place of death, in the distance stands a beautiful ruin, the guardian of the sword. Over there down below it must surely be the bright dress of Marie-Madeleine, but she is turned facing in the opposite direction so she could not see the lamp signal. Despite the shouting, she doesn't hear.
Returning on foot toward the interior, Charlot sees that there is a galley descending in a gentle slope. He crawls more than he walks. His eyes burn. His breathing becomes difficult. And then the passage comes to a dead end. He cries out, falls, gives another shout and feints. Marie Madeliene heard the voice which seems to emanate from beneath a large rock. She clears away some undergrowth, small stones and some topsoil. After a great struggle she manages to extract this poor old young Lazarus revived/ from the dead amidst all of those other corpses. She washes off all his white mud and tends his injuries. She wraps him in a sleeping bag, and offers him a sip of rum. Thank you!
Marie-Madeleine: The most beautiful girl in the world could not offer more than that which she has at this moment.
Charlot: Not so. She doesn't give it. She lends it: I have lived, I know what I am saying.
Marie-Madeleine: How much do you bet?
Charlot: Nothing I am poor.
Marie-Madeleine: Was there no treasure at all?
Charlot answers that there was one there, very powerful, and another fabulous, that there was enough to sustain several empires, but that he would rather die than touch it. We must wait until someone from the rond de lis [The ring of the Lily or fleur de lis circle] comes to reclaim it or there appears an honest head of state - that could take quite some time.
Marie-Madeleine: But, what about yourself?
Charlot: To be loved freely by the most beautiful girl in the world. What more could anyone ask besides?
Marie-Madeleine: I already have greatly loved.
Charlot: Then for this will be you fully forgiven.
Marie-Madeleine: Its a rumour going around.
Charlot: Then let us run together just as speedily [as the rumour], my angel.