In 1883, Ringmaster and director of Circus Maester Nicolaas Maester was poisoned with arsenic. The poison was administered through his morning tea by lion tamer Giuseppe Cagliari, who was in love with Nicolaas’ daughter, the dancer Elisabeth – and he imagined her being madly in love with him as well. In truth, Elisabeth was in love with the help of Giuseppe, the Surinamese Julius Bilt. Their love was a long kept secret between the two, but when Elisabeth turned out to be pregnant, Nicolaas bought arsenic to poison her and disrupt the pregnancy. Giuseppe only got bits and pieces of this whole affair and thought Nicolaas wanted to kill his daughter. Trying to both save her and release her from the stern authority of her father, Giuseppe poisoned Nicolaas with an overdose of arsenic and framed his help Julius. Julius and Elisabeth were torn from each other, and Julius got sentenced to lifelong imprisonment.
Twenty-seven years later, Julius wrote a letter to his daughter, Julia, whom he never got to see, to tell her about the twisted history of their family.