Tatters of the King

October 17th, 1928 - The Queen and the Stranger

On the evening of Wednesday, October 17th, 1928, the play “Carcosa” or, “The Queen and the Stranger”, opened at the Scala Theater on Charlotte Street, in London. In attendance were Para-psychologist Ingrid Beaumont, Journalist Diana Schumway, Proffessor/Boxer Marvin “Hurricane” Harper, and Tim the Gigolo.

At 9:00 PM, the play begins with scenes of Queen Cassilda and her family discussing matters of succession and of her city and kingdom which she names as Ythill and Hastur. They speak of Carcosa, a wandering dreamlike city which is a place of several unusual aspects: it appeared overnight; it is either on or beyond the waters below the palace, Hali; the towers of the city slip behind the moons at night and on seeing the city one knows its name. There is a fifth singularity which no one speaks of. At some point, a priest enters. A white-masked stranger has arrived in the city. It was unclear what took place during the final scenes of the first act, and there was much disagreement on it later among the the audience members who would speak of it at all. What they could be certain of, was that before the curtain fell at intermission, the stranger in the white mask throws up his arms to reveal the Yellow Sign painted on his breast and sleeve, and Cassilda collapses.

There are a mixture of reactions from the crowd. A couple of audience members appear to have been overcome by mild hysterics and there is muffled sobbing from more. Some people are going home, but many other audience members appeared to be spellbound. At least one of the investigators found the play “memorizing” and “moving”.

Act II begins with several characters talking to the stranger, one by one. They all want something, but the stranger says not a word. Later, a masked ball is held on the palace balcony. The stranger wears a bone white mask and moves stiffly and without gaiety. The revelers begin to take off their masks. The stranger keeps his mask, or rather, he wears no mask! Another figure appears in tattered robes: it is the King in Yellow. It is clear that now all have seen the Sign, all must wear the mask – Ythill has become Carcosa.

As the play ends, the audience begins to riot. The investigators mange to slip out a side door and then return to the lobby without incident. The police arrive and arrest a half dozen people before things calm down again. The theater is mostly empty now, but the investigators meet Talbot Estus, the writer of the play. They learn that he adapted this play from The King in Yellow, and that he has a copy of this rare book. After speaking with a few of the other actors and the theater owner, Mr. Noble, the investigators end their evening at the theater and return home.

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