Arianna Milieux, the most widely respected female theologian of her era, stared out of the window and considered the nature of divinity. She watched a leaf fall slowly from one of the tall trees on the boulevard outside. The way it fell – drifting first one way, then the other, but falling, always falling – put her in mind of what her colleague Luc had been saying over lunch the previous day regarding the Miltonic conception of virtue and the inherent incompleteness of man.
She was just reaching for a pen when something bright caught her eye. Between the trees, on a street perpendicular to the boulevard, she could see the garish colours of a circus convoy. Slowly, it revealed itself to her, emerging from the trees and onto the main thoroughfare. The elephants caught her attention immediately, their upraised trunks leading the procession. Behind them was an open platform of a vehicle, in the manner of a carnival float, containing a troupe of acrobats who leapt and tumbled even as they travelled. What really took her breath away, though, was the sight of the man who walked behind this acrobatic spectacle, calmly pacing along the boulevard as if he owned the city and everything in it.
Even from a distance, she could see the piercing blue of his eyes, the firm set of his jaw, the sheer size of his bright red shoes as they flapped around below his barely three-foot frame. She knew him by reputation, but had never before seen him in person – this could only be Alfonzo, the shortest clown in all of Europe.