Sunday, 29 March 2009

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 20

"Your hand high, ready to fire!" repeated Raoul's companion quickly.
The wall, behind them, having completed the circle which it described upon itself, closed again; and the two men stood motionless for a moment, holding their breath.
At last, the Persian decided to make a movement; and Raoul heard him slip on his knees and feel for something in the dark with his groping hands. Suddenly, the darkness was made visible by a small dark lantern and Raoul instinctively stepped backward as though to escape the scrutiny of a secret enemy. But he soon perceived that the light belonged to the Persian, whose movements he was closely observing. The little red disk was turned in every direction and Raoul saw that the floor, the walls and the ceiling were all formed of planking. It must have been the ordinary road taken by Erik to reach Christine's dressing-room and impose upon her innocence. And Raoul, remembering the Persian's remark, thought that it had been mysteriously constructed by the ghost himself. Later, he learned that Erik had found, all prepared for him, a secret passage, long known to himself alone and contrived at the time of the Paris Commune to allow the jailers to convey their prisoners straight to the dungeons that had been constructed for them in the cellars; for the Federates had occupied the opera-house immediately after the eighteenth of March and had made a starting-place right at the top for their Mongolfier balloons, which carried their incendiary proclamations to the departmcnts, and a state prison right at the bottom.
The Persian went on his knees and put his lantern on the ground. He seemed to be working at the floor; and suddenly he turned off his light. Then Raoul heard a faint click and saw a very pale luminous square in the floor of the passage. It was as though a window had opened on the Opera cellars, which were still lit. Raoul no longer saw the Persian, but he suddenly felt him by his side and heard him whisper:
"Follow me and do all that I do."
Raoul turned to the luminous aperture. Then he saw the Persian, who was still on his knees, hang by his hands from the rim of the opening, with his pistol between his teeth, and slide into the cellar below.
Curiously enough, the viscount had absolute confidence in the Persian, though he knew nothing about him. His emotion when speaking of the "monster" struck him as sincere; and, if the Persian had cherished any sinister designs against him, he would not have armed him with his own hands. Besides, Raoul must reach Christine at all costs. He therefore went on his knees also and hung from the trap with both hands.
"Let go!" said a voice.
And he dropped into the arms of the Persian, who told him to lie down flat, closed the trap-door above him and crouched down beside him. Raoul tried to ask a question, but the Persian's hand was on his mouth and he heard a voice which he recognized as that of the commissary of police.
Raoul and the Persian were completely hidden behind a wooden partition. Near them, a small staircase led to a little room in which the commissary appeared to be walking up and down, asking questions. The faint light was just enough to enable Raoul to distinguish the shape of things around him. And he could not restrain a dull cry: there were three corpses there.
The first lay on the narrow landing of the little staircase; the two others had rolled to the bottom of the staircase. Raoul could have touched one of the two poor wretches by passing his fingers through the partition.
"Silence!" whispered the Persian.
He too had seen the bodies and he gave one word in explanation:
The commissary's voice was now heard more distinctly. He was asking for information about the system of lighting, which the stage-manager supplied. The commissary therefore must be in the "organ" or its immediate neighborhood.
Contrary to what one might think, especially in connection with an opera-house, the "organ" is not a musical instrument. At that time, electricity was employed only for a very few scenic effects and for the bells. The immense building and the stage itself were still lit by gas; hydrogen was used to regulate and modify the lighting of a scene; and this was done by means of a special apparatus which, because of the multiplicity of its pipes, was known as the "organ." A box beside the prompter's box was reserved for the chief gas-man, who from there gave his orders to his assistants and saw that they were executed. Mauclair stayed in this box during all the performances.
But now Mauclair was not in his box and his assistants not in their places.
"Mauclair! Mauclair!"
The stage-manager's voice echoed through the cellars. But Mauclair did not reply.
I have said that a door opened on a little staircase that led to the second cellar. The commissary pushed it, but it resisted.
"I say," he said to the stage-manager, "I can't open this door: is it always so difficult?"
The stage-manager forced it open with his shoulder. He saw that, at the same time, he was pushing a human body and he could not keep back an exclamation, for he recognized the body at once:
"Mauclair! Poor devil! He is dead!"
But Mr. Commissary Mifroid, whom nothing surprised, was stooping over that big body.
"No," he said, "he is dead-drunk, which is not quite the same thing."
"It's the first time, if so," said the stage-manager
"Then some one has given him a narcotic. That is quite possible."
Mifroid went down a few steps and said:
By the light of a little red lantern, at the foot of the stairs, they saw two other bodies. The stage-manager recognized Mauclair's assistants. Mifroid went down and listened to their breathing.
"They are sound asleep," he said. "Very curious business! Some person unknown must have interfered with the gas-man and his staff...and that person unknown was obviously working on behalf of the kidnapper....But what a funny idea to kidnap a performer on the stage!...Send for the doctor of the theater, please." And Mifroid repeated, "Curious, decidedly curious business!"
Then he turned to the little room, addressing the people whom Raoul and the Persian were unable to see from where they lay.
"What do you say to all this, gentlemen? You are the only ones who have not given your views. And yet you must have an opinion of some sort."
Thereupon, Raoul and the Persian saw the startled faces of the joint managers appear above the landing--and they heard Moncharmin's excited voice:
"There are things happening here, Mr. Commissary, which we are unable to explain."
And the two faces disappeared.
"Thank you for the information, gentlemen," said Mifroid, with a jeer.
But the stage-manager, holding his chin in the hollow of his right hand, which is the attitude of profound thought, said:
"It is not the first time that Mauclair has fallen asleep in the theater. I remember finding him, one evening, snoring in his little recess, with his snuff-box beside him."
"Is that long ago?" asked M. Mifroid, carefully wiping his eye-glasses.
"No, not so very long ago....Wait a bit!...It was the night ... of course, yes...It was the night when Carlotta--you know, Mr. Commissary--gave her famous `co-ack'!"
"Really? The night when Carlotta gave her famous `co-ack'?"
And M. Mifroid, replacing his gleaming glasses on his nose, fixed the stage-manager with a contemplative stare.
"So Mauclair takes snuff, does he?" he asked carelessly.
"`Yes, Mr. Commissary....Look, there is his snuff-box on that little shelf....Oh! he's a great snuff-taker!"
"So am I," said Mifroid and put the snuff-box in his pocket.
Raoul and the Persian, themselves unobserved, watched the removal of the three bodies by a number of scene-shifters, who were followed by the commissary and all the people with him. Their steps Were heard for a few minutes on the stage above. When they were alone the Persian made a sign to Raoul to stand up. Raoul did so; but, as he did not lift his hand in front of his eyes, ready to fire, the Persian told him to resume that attitude and to continue it, whatever happened.
"But it tires the hand unnecessarily," whispered Raoul. "If I do fire, I shan't be sure of my aim."
"Then shift your pistol to the other hand," said the Persian.
"I can't shoot with my left hand."
Thereupon, the Persian made this queer reply, which was certainly not calculated to throw light into the young man's flurried brain:
"It's not a question of shooting with the right hand or the left; it's a question of holding one of your hands as though you were going to pull the trigger of a pistol with your arm bent. As for the pistol itself, when all is said, you can put that in your pocket!" And he added, "Let this be clearly understood, or I will answer for nothing. It is a matter of life and death. And now, silence and follow me!"
The cellars of the Opera are enormous and they are five in number. Raoul followed the Persian and wondered what he would have done without his companion in that extraordinary labyrinth. They went down to the third cellar; and their progress was still lit by some distant lamp.
The lower they went, the more precautions the Persian seemed to take. He kept on turning to Raoul to see if he was holding his arm properly, showing him how he himself carried his hand as if always ready to fire, though the pistol was in his pocket.
Suddenly, a loud voice made them stop. Some one above them shouted:
"All the door-shutters on the stage! The commissary of police wants them!"
Steps were heard and shadows glided through the darkness. The Persian drew Raoul behind a set piece. They saw passing before and above them old men bent by age and the past burden of opera-scenery. Some could hardly drag themselves along; others, from habit, with stooping bodies and outstretched hands, looked for doors to shut.
They were the door-shutters, the old, worn-out scene-shifters, on whom a charitable management had taken pity, giving them the job of shutting doors above and below the stage. They went about incessantly, from top to bottom of the building, shutting the doors; and they were also called "The draft-expellers," at least at that time, for I have little doubt that by now they are all dead. Drafts are very bad for the voice, wherever they may come from.[3]
----[3] M. Pedro Gailhard has himself told me that he created a few additional posts as door-shutters for old stage-carpenters whom he was unwilling to dismiss from the service of the Opera. The two men might have stumbled over them, waking them up and provoking a request for explanations. For the moment, M. Mifroid's inquiry saved them from any such unpleasant encounters.
The Persian and Raoul welcomed this incident, which relieved them of inconvenient witnesses, for some of those door-shutters, having nothing else to do or nowhere to lay their heads, stayed at the Opera, from idleness or necessity, and spent the night there.
But they were not left to enjoy their solitude for long. Other shades now came down by the same way by which the door-shutters had gone up. Each of these shades carried a little lantern and moved it about, above, below and all around, as though looking for something or somebody.
"Hang it!" muttered the Persian. "I don't know what they are looking for, but they might easily find us....Let us get away, quick!...Your hand up, sir, ready to fire!...Bend your arm ... more...that's it!...Hand at the level of your eye, as though you were fighting a duel and waiting for the word to fire! Oh, leave your pistol in your pocket. Quick, come along, down-stairs. Level of your eye! Question of life or death!... Here, this way, these stairs!" They reached the fifth cellar. "Oh, what a duel, sir, what a duel!"
Once in the fifth cellar, the Persian drew breath. He seemed to enjoy a rather greater sense of security than he had displayed when they both stopped in the third; but he never altered the attitude of his hand. And Raoul, remembering the Persian's observation--"I know these pistols can be relied upon"--was more and more astonished, wondering why any one should be so gratified at being able to rely upon a pistol which he did not intend to use!
But the Persian left him no time for reflection. Telling Raoul to stay where he was, he ran up a few steps of the staircase which they had just left and then returned.
"How stupid of us!" he whispered. "We shall soon have seen the end of those men with their lanterns. It is the firemen going their rounds."[4]
----[4] In those days, it was still part of the firemen's duty to watch over the safety of the Opera house outside the performances; but this service has since been suppressed. I asked M. Pedro Gailhard the reason, and he replied:
The two men waited five minutes longer. Then the Persian took Raoul up the stairs again; but suddenly he stopped him with a gesture. Something moved in the darkness before them.
"Flat on your stomach!" whispered the Persian.
The two men lay flat on the floor.
They were only just in time. A shade, this time. carrying no light, just a shade in the shade, passed. It passed close to them, near enough to touch them.
They felt the warmth of its cloak upon them. For they could distinguish the shade sufficiently to see that it wore a cloak which shrouded it from head to foot. On its head it had a soft felt hat....
It moved away, drawing its feet against the walls and sometimes giving a kick into a corner.
"Whew!" said the Persian. "We've had a narrow escape; that shade knows me and has twice taken me to the managers' office."
"It was because the management was afraid that, in their utter inexperience of the cellars of the Opera, the firemen might set fire to the building!"
"Is it some one belonging to the theater police?" asked Raoul.
"It's some one much worse than that!" replied the Persian, without giving any further explanation.[5]
----[5] Like the Persian, I can give no further explanation touching the apparition of this shade. Whereas, in this historic narrative, everything else will be normally explained, however abnormal the course of events may seem, I can not give the reader expressly to understand what the Persian meant by the words, "It is some one much worse than that!" The reader must try to guess for himself, for I promised M. Pedro Gailhard, the former manager of the Opera, to keep his secret regarding the extremely interesting and useful personality of the wandering, cloaked shade which, while condemning itself to live in the cellars of the Opera, rendered such immense services to those who, on gala evenings, for instance, venture to stray away from the stage. I am speaking of state services; and, upon my word of honor, I can say no more.
"It's not...he?"
"He?...If he does not come behind us, we shall always see his yellow eyes! That is more or less our safeguard to-night. But he may come from behind, stealing up; and we are dead men if we do not keep our hands as though about to fire, at the level of our eyes, in front!"
The Persian had hardly finished speaking, when a fantastic face came in sight...a whole fiery face, not only two yellow eyes!
Yes, a head of fire came toward them, at a man's height, but with no body attached to it. The face shed fire, looked in the darkness like a flame shaped as a man's face.
"Oh," said the Persian, between his teeth. "I have never seen this before!...Pampin was not mad, after all: he had seen it!... What can that flame be? It is not HE, but he may have sent it! ...Take care!...Take care! Your hand at the level of your eyes, in Heaven's name, at the level of your eyes!...know most of his tricks... but not this one....Come, let us is safer. Hand at the level of your eyes!"
And they fled down the long passage that opened before them.
After a few seconds, that seemed to them like long minutes, they stopped.
"He doesn't often come this way," said the Persian. "This side has nothing to do with him. This side does not lead to the lake nor to the house on the lake....But perhaps he knows that we are at his heels...although I promised him to leave him alone and never to meddle in his business again!"
So saying, he turned his head and Raoul also turned his head; and they again saw the head of fire behind their two heads. It had followed them. And it must have run also, and perhaps faster than they, for it seemed to be nearer to them.
At the same time, they began to perceive a certain noise of which they could not guess the nature. They simply noticed that the sound seemed to move and to approach with the fiery face. It was a noise as though thousands of nails had been scraped against a blackboard, the perfectly unendurable noise that is sometimes made by a little stone inside the chalk that grates on the blackboard.
They continued to retreat, but the fiery face came on, came on, gaining on them. They could see its features clearly now. The eyes were round and staring, the nose a little crooked and the mouth large, with a hanging lower lip, very like the eyes, nose and lip of the moon, when the moon is quite red, bright red.
How did that red moon manage to glide through the darkness, at a man's height, with nothing to support it, at least apparently? And how did it go so fast, so straight ahead, with such staring, staring eyes? And what was that scratching, scraping, grating sound which it brought with it?
The Persian and Raoul could retreat no farther and flattened themselves against the wall, not knowing what was going to happen because of that incomprehensible head of fire, and especially now, because of the more intense, swarming, living, "numerous" sound, for the sound was certainly made up of hundreds of little sounds that moved in the darkness, under the fiery face.
And the fiery face came on...with its noise...came level with them!...
And the two companions, flat against their wall, felt their hair stand on end with horror, for they now knew what the thousand noises meant. They came in a troop, hustled along in the shadow by innumerable little hurried waves, swifter than the waves that rush over the sands at high tide, little night-waves foaming under the moon, under the fiery head that was like a moon. And the little waves passed between their legs, climbing up their legs, irresistibly, and Raoul and the Persian could no longer restrain their cries of horror, dismay and pain. Nor could they continue to hold their hands at the level of their eyes: their hands went down to their legs to push back the waves, which were full of little legs and nails and claws and teeth.
Yes, Raoul and the Persian were ready to faint, like Pampin the fireman. But the head of fire turned round in answcr to their cries, and spoke to them:
"Don't move! Don't move!...Whatever you do, don't come after me! ... I am the rat-catcher!...Let me pass, with my rats!..."
And the head of fire disappeared, vanished in the darkness, while the passage in front of it lit up, as the result of the change which the rat-catcher had made in his dark lantern. Before, so as not to scare the rats in front of him, he had turned his dark lantern on himself, lighting up his own head; now, to hasten their flight, he lit the dark space in front of him. And he jumped along, dragging with him the waves of scratching rats, all the thousand sounds.
Raoul and the Persian breathed again, though still trembling.
"I ought to have remembered that Erik talked to me about the rat-catcher," said the Persian. "But he never told me that he looked like that... and it's funny that I should never have met him before.... Of course, Erik never comes to this part!"
{two page color illustration}
"Are we very far from the lake, sir?" asked Raoul. "When shall we get there?...Take me to the lake, oh, take me to the lake!... When we are at the lake, we will call out!...Christine will hear us!...And HE will hear us, too!...And, as you know him, we shall talk to him!" "Baby!" said the Persian. "We shall never enter the house on the lake by the lake!...I myself have never landed on the other bank...the bank on which the house stands. ...You have to cross the lake first...and it is well guarded! ...I fear that more than one of those men--old scene-shifters, old door-shutters--who have never been seen again were simply tempted to cross the lake....It is terrible....I myself would have been nearly killed there...if the monster had not recognized me in time!...One piece of advice, sir; never go near the lake. ...And, above all, shut your ears if you hear the voice singing under the water, the siren's voice!"
"But then, what are we here for?" asked Raoul, in a transport of fever, impatience and rage. "If you can do nothing for Christine, at least let me die for her!" The Persian tried to calm the young man.
"We have only one means of saving Christine Daae, believe me, which is to enter the house unperceived by the monster."
"And is there any hope of that, sir?"
"Ah, if I had not that hope, I would not have come to fetch you!"
"And how can one enter the house on the lake without crossing the lake?"
"From the third cellar, from which we were so unluckily driven away. We will go back there now....I will tell you," said the Persian, with a sudden change in his voice, "I will tell you the exact place, sir: it is between a set piece and a discarded scene from ROI DE LAHORE, exactly at the spot where Joseph Buquet died. ... Come, sir, take courage and follow me! And hold your hand at the level of your eyes!...But where are we?"
The Persian lit his lamp again and flung its rays down two enormous corridors that crossed each other at right angles.
"We must be," he said, "in the part used more particularly for the waterworks. I see no fire coming from the furnaces."
He went in front of Raoul, seeking his road, stopping abruptly when he was afraid of meeting some waterman. Then they had to protect themselves against the glow of a sort of underground forge, which the men were extinguishing, and at which Raoul recognized the demons whom Christine had seen at the time of her first captivity.
In this way, they gradually arrived beneath the huge cellars below the stage. They must at this time have been at the very bottom of the "tub" and at an extremely great depth, when we remember that the earth was dug out at fifty feet below the water that lay under the whole of that part of Paris.[6]
----[6] All the water had to be exhausted, in the building of the Opera. To give an idea of the amount of water that was pumped up, I can tell the reader that it represented the area of the courtyard of the Louvre and a height half as deep again as the towers of Notre Dame. And nevertheless the engineers had to leave a lake. sounding on the floor of the upper portions of the theater.
The Persian touched a partition-wall and said:
"If I am not mistaken, this is a wall that might easily belong to the house on the lake."
He was striking a partition-wall of the "tub," and perhaps it would be as well for the reader to know how the bottom and the partition-walls of the tub were built. In order to prevent the water surrounding the building-operations from remaining in immediate contact with the walls supporting the whole of the theatrical machinery, the architect was obliged to build a double case in every direction. The work of constructing this double case took a whole year. It was the wall of the first inner case that the Persian struck when speaking to Raoul of the house on the lake. To any one understanding the architecture of the edifice, the Persian's action would seem to indicate that Erik's mysterious house had been built in the double case, formed of a thick wall constructed as an embankment or dam, then of a brick wall, a tremendous layer of cement and another wall several yards in thickness.
At the Persian's words, Raoul flung himself against the wall and listened eagerly. But he heard nothing...nothing ... except distant steps.
The Persian darkened his lantern again.
"Look out!" he said. "Keep your hand up! And silence! For we shall try another way of getting in."
And he led him to the little staircase by which they had come down lately.
They went up, stopping at each step, peering into the darkness and the silence, till they came to the third cellar. Here the Persian motioned to Raoul to go on his knees; and, in this way, crawling on both knees and one hand--for the other hand was held in the position indicated--they reached the end wall.
Against this wall stood a large discarded scene from the ROI DE LAHORE. Close to this scene was a set piece. Between the scene and the set piece there was just room for a body...for a body which one day was found hanging there. The body of Joseph Buquet.
The Persian, still kneeling, stopped and listened. For a moment, he seemed to hesitate and looked at Raoul; then he turned his eyes upward, toward the second cellar, which sent down the faint glimmer of a lantern, through a cranny between two boards. This glimmer seemed to trouble the Persian.
At last, he tossed his head and made up his mind to act. He slipped between the set piece and the scene from the ROI DE LAHORE, with Raoul close upon his heels. With his free hand, the Persian felt the wall. Raoul saw him bear heavily upon the wall, just as he had pressed against the wall in Christine's dressing-room. Then a stone gave way, leaving a hole in the wall.
This time, the Persian took his pistol from his pocket and made a sign to Raoul to do as he did. He cocked the pistol.
And, resolutely, still on his knees, he wiggled through the hole in the wall. Raoul, who had wished to pass first, had to be content to follow him.
The hole was very narrow. The Persian stopped almost at once. Raoul heard him feeling the stones around him. Then the Persian took out his dark lantern again, stooped forward, examined something beneath him and immediately extinguished his Iantern. Raoul heard him say, in a whisper:
"We shall have to drop a few yards, without making a noise; take off your boots."
The Persian handed his own shoes to Raoul.
"Put them outside the wall," he said. "We shall find them there when we leave."[7]
----[7] These two pairs of boots, which were placed, according to the Persian's papers, just between the set piece and the scene from the ROI DE LAHORE, on the spot where Joseph Buquet was found hanging, were never discovered. They must have been taken by some stage-carpenter or "door-shutter."
He crawled a little farther on his knees, then turned right round and said:
"I am going to hang by my hands from the edge of the stone and let myself drop INTO HIS HOUSE. You must do exactly the same. Do not be afraid. I will catch you in my arms."
Raoul soon heard a dull sound, evidently produced by the fall of the Persian, and then dropped down.
He felt himself clasped in the Persian's arms.
"Hush!" said the Persian.
And they stood motionless, listening.
The darkness was thick around them, the silence heavy and terrible.
Then the Persian began to make play with the dark lantern again, turning the rays over their heads, looking for the hole through which they had come, and failing to find it:
"Oh!" he said. "The stone has closed of itself!"
And the light of the lantern swept down the wall and over the floor.
The Persian stooped and picked up something, a sort of cord, which he examined for a second and flung away with horror.
"The Punjab lasso!" he muttered.
"What is it?" asked Raoul.
The Persian shivered. "It might very well be the rope by which the man was hanged, and which was looked for so long."
And, suddenly seized with fresh anxiety, he moved the little red disk of his lantern over the walls. In this way, he lit up a curious thing: the trunk of a tree, which seemed still quite alive, with its leaves; and the branches of that tree ran right up the walls and disappeared in the ceiling.
Because of the smallness of the luminous disk, it was difficult at first to make out the appearance of things: they saw a corner of a branch...and a leaf...and another leaf...and, next to it, nothing at all, nothing but the ray of light that seemed to reflect itself....Raoul passed his hand over that nothing, over that reflection.
"Hullo!" he said. "The wall is a looking-glass!"
"Yes, a looking-glass!" said the Persian, in a tone of deep emotion. And, passing the hand that held the pistol over his moist forehead, he added, "We have dropped into the torture-chamber!"
What the Persian knew of this torture-chamber and what there befell him and his companion shall be told in his own words, as set down in a manuscript which he left behind him, and which I copy VERBATIM.

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 19

Raoul now remembered that his brother had once shown him that mysterious person, of whom nothing was known except that he was a Persian and that he lived in a little old-fashioned flat in the Rue de Rivoli.
The man with the ebony skin, the eyes of jade and the astrakhan cap bent over Raoul.
"I hope, M. de Chagny," he said, "that you have not betrayed Erik's secret?"
"And why should I hesitate to betray that monster, sir?" Raoul rejoined haughtily, trying to shake off the intruder. "Is he your friend, by any chance?"
"I hope that you said, nothing about Erik, sir, because Erik's secret is also Christine Daae's and to talk about one is to talk about the other!"
"Oh, sir," said Raoul, becoming more and more impatient, "you seem to know about many things that interest me; and yet I have no time to listen to you!"
"Once more, M. de Chagny, where are you going so fast?"
"Can not you guess? To Christine Daae's assistance. ..."
"Then, sir, stay here, for Christine Daae is here!"
"With Erik?"
"With Erik."
"How do you know?"
"I was at the performance and no one in the world but Erik could contrive an abduction like that!...Oh," he said, with a deep sigh, "I recognized the monster's touch!..."
"You know him then?"
The Persian did not reply, but heaved a fresh sigh.
"Sir," said Raoul, "I do not know what your intentions are, but can you do anything to help me? I mean, to help Christine Daae?"
"I think so, M. de Chagny, and that is why I spoke to you."
"What can you do?"
"Try to take you to her...and to him."
"If you can do me that service, sir, my life is yours!...One word more: the commissary of police tells me that Christine Daae has been carried off by my brother, Count Philippe."
"Oh, M. de Chagny, I don't believe a word of it."
"It's not possible, is it?"
"I don't know if it is possible or not; but there are ways and ways of carrying people off; and M. le Comte Philippe has never, as far as I know, had anything to do with witchcraft."
"Your arguments are convincing, sir, and I am a fool!...Oh, let us make haste! I place myself entirely in your hands!... How should I not believe you, when you are the only one to believe me...when you are the only one not to smile when Erik's name is mentioned?"
And the young man impetuously seized the Persian's hands. They were ice-cold.
"Silence!" said the Persian, stopping and listening to the distant sounds of the theater. "We must not mention that name here. Let us say `he' and `him;' then there will be less danger of attracting his attention."
"Do you think he is near us?"
"It is quite possible, Sir, if he is not, at this moment, with his victim, IN THE HOUSE ON THE LAKE."
"Ah, so you know that house too?"
"If he is not there, he may be here, in this wall, in this floor, in this ceiling!...Come!"
And the Persian, asking Raoul to deaden the sound of his footsteps, led him down passages which Raoul had never seen before, even at the time when Christine used to take him for walks through that labyrinth.
"If only Darius has come!" said the Persian.
"Who is Darius?"
"Darius? My servant."
They were now in the center of a real deserted square, an immense apartment ill-lit by a small lamp. The Persian stopped Raoul and, in the softest of whispers, asked:
"What did you say to the commissary?"
"I said that Christine Daae's abductor was the Angel of Music, ALIAS the Opera ghost, and that the real name was..."
"Hush!...And did he believe you?"
"He attached no importance to what you said?"
"He took you for a bit of a madman?"
"So much the better!" sighed the Persian.
And they continued their road. After going up and down several staircases which Raoul had never seen before, the two men found themselves in front of a door which the Persian opened with a master-key. The Persian and Raoul were both, of course, in dress-clothes; but, whereas Raoul had a tall hat, the Persian wore the astrakhan cap which I have already mentioned. It was an infringement of the rule which insists upon the tall hat behind the scenes; but in France foreigners are allowed every license: the Englishman his traveling-cap, the Persian his cap of astrakhan.
"Sir," said the Persian, "your tall hat will be in your way: you would do well to leave it in the dressing-room."
"What dressing-room?" asked Raoul.
"Christine Daae's."
And the Persian, letting Raoul through the door which he had just opened, showed him the actress' room opposite. They were at the end of the passage the whole length of which Raoul had been accustomed to traverse before knocking at Christine's door.
"How well you know the Opera, sir!"
"Not so well as `he' does!" said the Persian modestly.
And he pushed the young man into Christine's dressing-room, which was as Raoul had left it a few minutes earlier.
Closing the door, the Persian went to a very thin partition that separated the dressing-room from a big lumber-room next to it. He listened and then coughed loudly.
There was a sound of some one stirring in the lumber-room; and, a few seconds later, a finger tapped at the door.
"Come in," said the Persian.
A man entered, also wearing an astrakhan cap and dressed in a long overcoat. He bowed and took a richly carved case from under his coat, put it on the dressing-table, bowed once again and went to the door.
"Did no one see you come in, Darius?"
"No, master."
"Let no one see you go out."
The servant glanced down the passage and swiftly disappeared.
The Persian opened the case. It contained a pair of long pistols.
"When Christine Daae was carried off, sir, I sent word to my servant to bring me these pistols. I have had them a long time and they can be relied upon."
"Do you mean to fight a duel?" asked the young man.
"It will certainly be a duel which we shall have to fight," said the other, examining the priming of his pistols. "And what a duel!" Handing one of the pistols to Raoul, he added, "In this duel, we shall be two to one; but you must be prepared for everything, for we shall be fighting the most terrible adversary that you can imagine. But you love Christine Daae, do you not?"
"I worship the ground she stands on! But you, sir, who do not love her, tell me why I find you ready to risk your life for her! You must certainly hate Erik!"
"No, sir," said the Persian sadly, "I do not hate him. If I hated him, he would long ago have ceased doing harm."
"Has he done you harm?"
"I have forgiven him the harm which he has done me."
"I do not understand you. You treat him as a monster, you speak of his crime, he has done you harm and I find in you the same inexplicable pity that drove me to despair when I saw it in Christine!"
The Persian did not reply. He fetched a stool and set it against the wall facing the great mirror that filled the whole of the wall-space opposite. Then he climbed on the stool and, with his nose to the wallpaper, seemed to be looking for something.
"Ah," he said, after a long search, "I have it!" And, raising his finger above his head, he pressed against a corner in the pattern of the paper. Then he turned round and jumped off the stool:
"In half a minute," he said, "he shall be ON HIS ROAD!" and crossing the whole of the dressing-room he felt the great mirror.
"No, it is not yielding yet," he muttered.
"Oh, are we going out by the mirror?" asked Raoul. "Like Christine Daae."
"So you knew that Christine Daae went out by that mirror?"
"She did so before my eyes, sir! I was hidden behind the curtain of the inner room and I saw her vanish not by the glass, but in the glass!"
"And what did you do?"
"I thought it was an aberration of my senses, a mad dream.
"Or some new fancy of the ghost's!" chuckled the Persian. "Ah, M. de Chagny," he continued, still with his hand on the mirror, "would that we had to do with a ghost! We could then leave our pistols in their case....Put down your hat, please...there... and now cover your shirt-front as much as you can with your coat... as I am doing....Bring the lapels forward...turn up the collar....We must make ourselves as invisible as possible."
Bearing against the mirror, after a short silence, he said:
"It takes some time to release the counterbalance, when you press on the spring from the inside of the room. It is different when you are behind the wall and can act directly on the counterbalance. Then the mirror turns at once and is moved with incredible rapidity."
"What counterbalance?" asked Raoul.
"Why, the counterbalance that lifts the whole of this wall on to its pivot. You surely don't expect it to move of itself, by enchantment! If you watch, you will see the mirror first rise an inch or two and then shift an inch or two from left to right. It will then be on a pivot and will swing round."
"It's not turning!" said Raoul impatiently.
"Oh, wait! You have time enough to be impatient, sir! The mechanism has obviously become rusty, or else the spring isn't working. ...Unless it is something else," added the Persian, anxiously.
"He may simply have cut the cord of the counterbalance and blocked the whole apparatus."
"Why should he? He does not know that we are coming this way!"
"I dare say he suspects it, for he knows that I understand the system."
"It's not turning!...And Christine, sir, Christine?"
The Persian said coldly:
"We shall do all that it is humanly possible to do!...But he may stop us at the first step!...He commands the walls, the doors and the trapdoors. In my country, he was known by a name which means the `trap-door lover.'"
"But why do these walls obey him alone? He did not build them!"
"Yes, sir, that is just what he did!"
Raoul looked at him in amazement; but the Persian made a sign to him to be silent and pointed to the glass....There was a sort of shivering reflection. Their image was troubled as in a rippling sheet of water and then all became stationary again.
"You see, sir, that it is not turning! Let us take another road!"
"To-night, there is no other!" declared the Persian, in a singularly mournful voice. "And now, look out! And be ready to fire."
He himself raised his pistol opposite the glass. Raoul imitated his movement. With his free arm, the Persian drew the young man to his chest and, suddenly, the mirror turned, in a blinding daze of cross-lights: it turned like one of those revolving doors which have lately been fixed to the entrances of most restaurants, it turned, carrying Raoul and the Persian with it and suddenly hurling them from the full light into the deepest darkness.

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 18

The first words of the commissary of police, on entering the managers' office, were to ask after the missing prima donna.
"Is Christine Daae here?"
"Christine Daae here?" echoed Richard. "No. Why?"
As for Moncharmin, he had not the strength left to utter a word.
Richard repeated, for the commissary and the compact crowd which had followed him into the office observed an impressive silence.
"Why do you ask if Christine Daae is here, M. LE COMMISSAIRE?"
"Because she has to be found,", declared the commissary of police solemnly.
"What do you mean, she has to be found? Has she disappeared?"
"In the middle of the performance!"
"In the middle of the performance? This is extraordinary!"
"Isn't it? And what is quite as extraordinary is that you should first learn it from me!"
"Yes," said Richard, taking his head in his hands and muttering. "What is this new business? Oh, it's enough to make a man send in his resignation!"
And he pulled a few hairs out of his mustache without even knowing what he was doing.
"So she disappeared in the middle of the performance?" he repeated.
"Yes, she was carried off in the Prison Act, at the moment when she was invoking the aid of the angels; but I doubt if she was carried off by an angel."
"And I am sure that she was!"
Everybody looked round. A young man, pale and trembling with excitement, repeated:
"I am sure of it!"
"Sure of what?" asked Mifroid.
"That Christine Daae' was carried off by an angel, M. LE COMMISSAIRE and I can tell you his name."
"Aha, M. le Vicomte de Chagny! So you maintain that Christine Daae was carried off by an angel: an angel of the Opera, no doubt?"
"Yes, monsieur, by an angel of the Opera; and I will tell you where he lives...when we are alone."
"You are right, monsieur."
And the commissary of police, inviting Raoul to take a chair, cleared the room of all the rest, excepting the managers.
Then Raoul spoke:
"M. le Commissaire, the angel is called Erik, he lives in the Opera and he is the Angel of Music!"
"The Angel of Music! Really! That is very curious!...The Angel of Music!" And, turning to the managers, M. Mifroid asked, "Have you an Angel of Music on the premises, gentlemen?"
Richard and Moncharmin shook their heads, without even speaking.
"Oh," said the viscount, "those gentlemen have heard of the Opera ghost. Well, I am in a position to state that the Opera ghost and the Angel of Music are one and the same person; and his real name is Erik."
M. Mifroid rose and looked at Raoul attentively.
"I beg your pardon, monsieur but is it your intention to make fun of the law? And, if not, what is all this about the Opera ghost?"
"I say that these gentlemen have heard of him."
"Gentlemen, it appears that you know the Opera ghost?"
Richard rose, with the remaining hairs of his mustache in his hand.
"No, M. Commissary, no, we do not know him, but we wish that we did, for this very evening he has robbed us of twenty-thousand francs!"
And Richard turned a terrible look on Moncharmin, which seemed to say:
"Give me back the twenty-thousand francs, or I'll tell the whole story."
Moncharmin understood what he meant, for, with a distracted gesture, he said:
"Oh, tell everything and have done with it!"
As for Mifroid, he looked at the managers and at Raoul by turns and wondered whether he had strayed into a lunatic asylum. He passed his hand through his hair.
"A ghost," he said, "who, on the same evening, carries off an opera-singer and steals twenty-thousand francs is a ghost who must have his hands very full! If you don't mind, we will take the questions in order. The singer first, the twenty-thousand francs after. Come, M. de Chagny, let us try to talk seriously. You believe that Mlle. Christine Daae has been carried off by an individual called Erik. Do you know this person? Have you seen him?"
"In a church yard."
M. Mifroid gave a start, began to scrutinize Raoul again and said:
"Of course!...That's where ghosts usually hang out!...And what were you doing in that churchyard?"
"Monsieur," said Raoul, "I can quite understand how absurd my replies must seem to you. But I beg you to believe that I am in full possession of my faculties. The safety of the person dearest to me in the world is at stake. I should like to convince you in a few words, for time is pressing and ever minute is valuable. Unfortunately, if I do not tell you the strangest story that ever was from the beginning, you will not believe me. I will tell you all I know about the Opera ghost, M. Commissary. Alas, I do not know much!..."
"Never mind, go on, go on!" exclaimed Richard and Moncharmin, suddenly greatly interested.
Unfortunately for their hopes of learning some detail that could put them on the track of their hoaxer, they were soon compelled to accept the fact that M. Raoul de Chagny had completely lost his head. All that story about Perros-Guirec, death's heads and enchanted violins, could only have taken birth in the disordered brain of a youth mad with love. It was evident, also, that Mr. Commissary Mifroid shared their view; and the magistrate would certainly have cut short the incoherent narrative if circumstances had not taken it upon themselves to interrupt it.
The door opened and a man entered, curiously dressed in an enormous frock-coat and a tall hat, at once shabby and shiny, that came down to his ears. He went up to the commissary and spoke to him in a whisper. It was doubtless a detective come to deliver an important communication.
During this conversation, M. Mifroid did not take his eyes off Raoul. At last, addressing him, he said:
"Monsieur, we have talked enough about the ghost. We will now talk about yourself a little, if you have no objection: you were to carry off Mlle. Christine Daae to-night?"
"Yes, M. le Commissaire."
"After the performance?"
"Yes, M. le Commissaire."
"All your arrangements were made?"
"Yes, M. le Commissaire."
"The carriage that brought you was to take you both away. ... There were fresh horses in readiness at every stage. ..."
"That is true, M. le Commissaire."
"And nevertheless your carriage is still outside the Rotunda awaiting your orders, is it not?"
"Yes, M. le Commissaire."
"Did you know that there were three other carriages there, in addition to yours?"
"I did not pay the least attention."
"They were the carriages of Mlle. Sorelli, which could not find room in the Cour de I'Administration; of Carlotta; and of your brother, M. le Comte de Chagny. ..."
"Very likely. ..."
"What is certain is that, though your carriage and Sorelli's and Carlotta's are still there, by the Rotunda pavement, M. le Comte de Chagny's carriage is gone."
"This has nothing to say to..."
"I beg your pardon. Was not M. le Comte opposed to your marriage with Mlle. Daae?"
"That is a matter that only concerns the family."
"You have answered my question: he was opposed to it...and that was why you were carrying Christine Daae out of your brother's reach. ... Well, M. de Chagny, allow me to inform you that your brother has been smarter than you! It is he who has carried off Christine Daae!"
"Oh, impossible!" moaned Raoul, pressing his hand to his heart. "Are you sure?"
"Immediately after the artist's disappearance, which was procured by means which we have still to ascertain, he flung into his carriage, which drove right across Paris at a furious pace."
"Across Paris?" asked poor Raoul, in a hoarse voice. "What do you mean by across Paris?"
"Across Paris and out of the Brussels road."
"Oh," cried the young man, "I shall catch them!" And he rushed out of the office.
"And bring her back to us!" cried the commisary gaily...."Ah, that's a trick worth two of the Angel of Music's!"
And, turning to his audience, M. Mifroid delivered a little lecture on police methods.
"I don't know for a moment whether M. le Comte de Chagny has really carried Christine Daae off or not...but I want to know and I believe that, at this moment, no one is more anxious to inform us than his brother....And now he is flying in pursuit of him! He is my chief auxiliary! This, gentlemen, is the art of the police, which is believed to be so complicated and which, nevertheless appears so simple as soon its you see that it consists in getting your work done by people who have nothing to do with the police."
But M. le Commissaire de Police Mifroid would not have been quite so satisfied with himself if he had known that the rush of his rapid emissary was stopped at the entrance to the very first corridor. A tall figure blocked Raoul's way.
"Where are you going so fast, M. de Chagny?" asked a voice.
Raoul impatiently raised his eyes and recognized the astrakhan cap of an hour ago. He stopped:
"It's you!" he cried, in a feverish voice. "You, who know Erik's secrets and don't want me to speak of them. Who are you?"
"You know who I am!...I am the Persian!"

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 17

Moncharmin's last phrase so dearly expressed the suspicion in which he now held his partner that it was bound to cause a stormy explanation, at the end of which it was agreed that Richard should yield to all Moncharmin's wishes, with the object of helping him to discover the miscreant who was victimizing them.
This brings us to the interval after the Garden Act, with the strange conduct observed by M. Remy and those curious lapses from the dignity that might be expected of the managers. It was arranged between Richard and Moncharmin, first, that Richard should repeat the exact movements which he had made on the night of the disappearance of the first twenty-thousand francs; and, second, that Moncharmin should not for an instant lose sight of Richard's coat-tail pocket, into which Mme. Giry was to slip the twenty-thousand francs.
M. Richard went and placed himself at the identical spot where he had stood when he bowed to the under-secretary for fine arts. M. Moncharmin took up his position a few steps behind him.
Mme. Giry passed, rubbed up against M. Richard, got rid of her twenty-thousand francs in the manager's coat-tail pocket and disappeared....Or rather she was conjured away. In accordance with the instructions received from Moncharmin a few minutes earlier, Mercier took the good lady to the acting-manager's office and turned the key on her, thus making it impossible for her to communicate with her ghost.
Meanwhile, M. Richard was bending and bowing and scraping and walking backward, just as if he had that high and mighty minister, the under-secretary for fine arts, before him. Only, though these marks of politeness would have created no astonishment if the under-secretary of state had really been in front of M. Richard, they caused an easily comprehensible amazement to the spectators of this very natural but quite inexplicable scene when M. Richard had no body in front of him.
M. Richard nobody; bent his back...before nobody; and walked backward...before nobody....And, a few steps behind him, M. Moncharmin did the same thing that he was doing in addition to pushing away M. Remy and begging M. de La Borderie, the ambassador, and the manager of the Credit Central "not to touch M. le Directeur."
Moncharmin, who had his own ideas, did not want Richard to come to him presently, when the twenty-thousand francs were gone, and say:
"Perhaps it was the ambassador...or the manager of the Credit Central...or Remy."
The more so as, at the time of the first scene, as Richard himself admitted, Richard had met nobody in that part of the theater after Mme. Giry had brushed up against him. ...
Having begun by walking backward in order to bow, Richard continued to do so from prudence, until he reached the passage leading to the offices of the management. In this way, he was constantly watched by Moncharmin from behind and himself kept an eye on any one approaching from the front. Once more, this novel method of walking behind the scenes, adopted by the managers of our National Academy of Music, attracted attention; but the managers themselves thought of nothing but their twenty-thousand francs.
On reaching the half-dark passage, Richard said to Moncharmin, in a low voice:
"I am sure that nobody has touched me....You had now better keep at some distance from me and watch me till I come to door of the office: it is better not to arouse suspicion and we can see anything that happens."
But Moncharmin replied. "No, Richard, no! You walk ahead and I'll walk immediately behind you! I won't leave you by a step!"
"But, in that case," exclaimed Richard, "they will never steal our twenty-thousand francs!"
"I should hope not, indeed!" declared Moncharmin.
"Then what we are doing is absurd!"
"We are doing exactly what we did last time....Last time, I joined you as you were leaving the stage and followed close behind you down this passage."
"That's true!" sighed Richard, shaking his head and passively obeying Moncharmin.
Two minutes later, the joint managers locked themselves into their office. Moncharmin himself put the key in his pocket:
"We remained locked up like this, last time," he said, "until you left the Opera to go home."
"That's so. No one came and disturbed us, I suppose?"
"No one."
"Then," said Richard, who was trying to collect his memory, "then I must certainly have been robbed on my way home from the Opera."
"No," said Moncharmin in a drier tone than ever, "no, that's impossible. For I dropped you in my cab. The twenty-thousand francs disappeared at your place: there's not a shadow of a doubt about that."
"It's incredible!" protested Richard. "I am sure of my servants... and if one of them had done it, he would have disappeared since."
Moncharmin shrugged his shoulders, as though to say that he did not wish to enter into details, and Richard began to think that Moncharmin was treating him in a very insupportable fashion.
"Moncharmin, I've had enough of this!"
"Richard, I've had too much of it!"
"Do you dare to suspect me?"
"Yes, of a silly joke."
"One doesn't joke with twenty-thousand francs."
"That's what I think," declared Mohcharmin, unfolding a newspaper and ostentatiously studying its contents.
"What are you doing?" asked Richard. "Are you going to read the paper next?"
"Yes, Richard, until I take you home."
"Like last time?"
"Yes, like last time."
Richard snatched the paper from Moncharmint's hands. Moncharmin stood up, more irritated than ever, and found himself faced by an exasperated Richard, who, crossing his arms on his chest, said:
"Look here, I'm thinking of this, I'M THINKING OF WHAT I MIGHT THINK if, like last time, after my spending the evening alone with you, you brought me home and if, at the moment of parting, I perceived that twenty-thousand francs had disappeared from my last time."
"And what might you think?" asked Moncharmin, crimson with rage.
"I might think that, as you hadn't left me by a foot's breadth and as, by your own wish, you were the only one to approach me, like last time, I might think that, if that twenty-thousand francs was no longer in my pocket, it stood a very good chance of being in yours!"
Moticharmin leaped up at the suggestion.
"Oh!" he shouted. "A safety-pin!"
"What do you want a safety-pin for?"
"To fasten you up with!...A safety-pin!...A safety-pin!"
"You want to fasten me with a safety-pin?"
"Yes, to fasten you to the twenty-thousand francs! Then, whether it's here, or on the drive from here to your place, or at your place, you will feel the hand that pulls at your pocket and you will see if it's mine! Oh, so you're suspecting me now, are you? A safety-pin!"
And that was the moment when Moncharmin opened the door on the passage and shouted:
"A safety-pin!...somebody give me a safety-pin!"
And we also know how, at the same moment, Remy, who had no safety-pin, was received by Moncharmin, while a boy procured the pin so eagerly longed for. And what happened was this: Moncharmin first locked the door again. Then he knelt down behind Richard's back.
"I hope," he said, "that the notes are still there?"
"So do I," said Richard.
"The real ones?" asked Moncharmin, resolved not to be "had" this time.
"Look for yourself," said Richard. "I refuse to touch them."
Moncharmin took the envelope from Richard's pocket and drew out the bank-notes with a trembling hand, for, this time, in order frequently to make sure of the presence of the notes, he had not sealed the envelope nor even fastened it. He felt reassured on finding that they were all there and quite genuine. He put them back in the tail-pocket and pinned them with great care. Then he sat down behind Richard's coat-tails and kept his eyes fixed on them, while Richard, sitting at his writing-table, did not stir.
"A little patience, Richard," said Moncharmin. "We have only a few minutes to wait....The clock will soon strike twelve. Last time, we left at the last stroke of twelve."
"Oh, I shall have all the patience necessary!"
The time passed, slow, heavy, mysterious, stifling. Richard tried to laugh.
"I shall end by believing in the omnipotence of the ghost," he said. "Just now, don't you find something uncomfortable, disquieting, alarming in the atmosphere of this room?"
"You're quite right," said Moncharmin, who was really impressed.
"The ghost!" continued Richard, in a low voice, as though fearing lest he should be overheard by invisible ears. "The ghost! Suppose, all the same, it were a ghost who puts the magic envelopes on the table ... who talks in Box Five...who killed Joseph Buquet... who unhooked the chandelier...and who robs us! For, after all, after all, after all, there is no one here except you a nd me, and, if the notes disappear and neither you nor I have anything to do with it, well, we shall have to believe in the the ghost."
At that moment, the clock on the mantlepiece gave its warning click and the first stroke of twelve struck.
The two managers shuddered. The perspiration streamed from their foreheads. The twelfth stroke sounded strangely in their ears.
When the clock stopped, they gave a sigh and rose from their chairs.
"I think we can go now," said Moncharmin.
"I think so," Richard a agreed.
"Before we go, do you mind if I look in your pocket
"But, of course, Moncharmin, YOU MUST!...Well?" he asked, as Moncharmin was feeling at the pocket.
"Well, I can feel the pin."
"Of course, as you said, we can't be robbed without noticing it."
But Moncharmin, whose hands were still fumbling, bellowed:
"I can feel the pin, but I can't feel the notes!"
"Come, no joking, Moncharmin!...This isn't the time for it."
"Well, feel for yourseIf."
Richard tore off his coat. The two managers turned the pocket inside out. THE POCKET WAS EMPTY. And the curious thing was that the pin remained, stuck in the same place.
Richard and Moncharmin turned pale. There was no longer any doubt about the witchcraft.
"The ghost!" muttered Moncharmin.
But Richard suddenly sprang upon his partner.
"No one but you has touched my pocket! Give me back my twenty-thousand francs!...Give me back my twenty-thousand francs!..."
"On my soul," sighed Moncharmin, who was ready to swoon, "on my soul, I swear that I haven't got it!"
Then somebody knocked at the door. Moncharmin opened it automatically, seemed hardly to recognize Mercier, his business-manager, exchanged a few words with him, without knowing what he was saying and, with an unconscious movement, put the safety-pin, for which he had no further use, into the hands of his bewildered subordinate....

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 16

Personal Relations with the Opera Ghost
Before following the commissary into the manager's office I must describe certain extraordinary occurrences that took place in that office which Remy and Mercier had vainly tried to enter and into which MM. Richard and Moncharmin had locked themselves with an object which the reader does not yet know, but which it is my duty, as an historian, to reveal without further postponement.
I have had occasion to say that the managers' mood had undergone a disagreeable change for some time past and to convey the fact that this change was due not only to the fall of the chandelier on the famous night of the gala performance.
The reader must know that the ghost had calmly been paid his first twenty thousand francs. Oh, there had been wailing and gnashing of teeth, indeed! And yet the thing had happened as simply as could be.
One morning, the managers found on their table an envelope addressed to "Monsieur O. G. (private)" and accompanied by a note from O. G. himself:
The time has come to carry out the clause in the memorandum-book. Please put twenty notes of a thousand francs each into this envelope, seal it with your own seal and hand it to Mme. Giry, who will do what is necessary.
The managers did not hesitate; without wasting time in asking how these confounded communications came to be delivered in an office which they were careful to keep locked, they seized this opportunity of laying hands, on the mysterious blackmailer. And, after telling the whole story, under the promise of secrecy, to Gabriel and Mercier, they put the twenty thousand francs into the envelope and without asking for explanations, handed it to Mme. Giry, who had been reinstated in her functions. The box-keeper displayed no astonishment. I need hardly say that she was well watched. She went straight to the ghost's box and placed the precious envelope on the little shelf attached to the ledge. The two managers, as well as Gabriel and Mercier, were hidden in such a way that they did not lose sight of the envelope for a second during the performance and even afterward, for, as the envelope had not moved, those who watched it did not move either; and Mme. Giry went away while the managers, Gabriel and Mercier were still there. At last, they became tired of waiting and opened the envelope, after ascertaining that the seals had not been broken.
At first sight, Richard and Moncharmin thought that the notes were still there; but soon they perceived that they were not the same. The twenty real notes were gone and had been replaced by twenty notes, of the "Bank of St. Farce"![2]
----[2] Flash notes drawn on the "Bank of St. Farce" in France correspond with those drawn on the "Bank of Engraving" in England.-- Translator's Note.
The managers' rage and fright were unmistakable. Moncharmin wanted to send for the commissary of police, but Richard objected. He no doubt had a plan, for he said:
"Don't let us make ourselves ridiculous! All Paris would laugh at us. O. G. has won the first game: we will win the second."
He was thinking of the next month's allowance.
Nevertheless, they had been so absolutely tricked that they were bound to suffer a certain dejection. And, upon my word, it was not difficult to understand. We must not forget that the managers had an idea at the back of their minds, all the time, that this strange incident might be an unpleasant practical joke on the part of their predecessors and that it would not do to divulge it prematurely. On the other hand, Moncharmin was sometimes troubled with a suspicion of Richard himself, who occasionally took fanciful whims into his head. And so they were content to await events, while keeping an eye on Mother Giry. Richard would not have her spoken to.
"If she is a confederate," he said, "the notes are gone long ago. But, in my opinion, she is merely an idiot."
"She's not the only idiot in this business," said Moncharmin pensively.
"Well, who could have thought it?" moaned Richard. "But don't be time, I shall have taken my precautions."
The next time fell on the same day that beheld the disappearance of Christine Daae. In the morning, a note from the ghost reminded them that the money was due. It read:
Do just as you did last time. It went very well. Put the twenty thousand in the envelope and hand it to our excellent Mme. Giry.
And the note was accompanied by the usual envelope. They had only to insert the notes.
This was done about half an hour before the curtain rose on the first act of Faust. Richard showed the envelope to Moncharmin. Then he counted the twenty thousand-franc notes in front of him and put the notes into the envelope, but without closing it.
"And now," he said, "let's have Mother Giry in."
The old woman was sent for. She entered with a sweeping courtesy. She still wore her black taffeta dress, the color of which was rapidly turning to rust and lilac, to say nothing of the dingy bonnet. She seemed in a good temper. She at once said:
"Good evening, gentlemen! It's for the envelope, I suppose?"
"Yes, Mme. Giry," said Richard, most amiably. "For the envelope ... and something else besides."
"At your service, M. Richard, at your service. And what is the something else, please?"
"First of all, Mme. Giry, I have a little question to put to you."
"By all means, M. Richard: Mme. Giry is here to answer you."
"Are you still on good terms with the ghost?"
"Couldn't be better, sir; couldn't be better."
"Ah, we are delighted....Look here, Mme. Giry," said Richard, in the tone of making an important confidence. "We may just as well tell you, among're no fool!"
"Why, sir," exclaimed the box-keeper, stopping the pleasant nodding of the black feathers in her dingy bonnet, "I assure you no one has ever doubted that!"
"We are quite agreed and we shall soon understand one another. The story of the ghost is all humbug, isn't it?...Well, still between ourselves, has lasted long enough."
Mme. Giry looked at the managers as though they were talking Chinese. She walked up to Richard's table and asked, rather anxiously:
"What do you mean? I don't understand."
"Oh, you, understand quite well. In any case, you've got to understand. ... And, first of all, tell us his name."
"Whose name?"
"The name of the man whose accomplice you are, Mme. Giry!"
"I am the ghost's accomplice? I?...His accomplice in what, pray?"
"You do all he wants."
"Oh! He's not very troublesome, you know."
"And does he still tip you?"
"I mustn't complain."
"How much does he give you for bringing him that envelope?"
"Ten francs."
"You poor thing! That's not much, is it?
"I'll tell you that presently, Mme. Giry. Just now we should like to know for what extraordinary reason you have given yourself body and soul, to this ghost...Mme. Giry's friendship and devotion are not to be bought for five francs or ten francs."
"That's true enough....And I can tell you the reason, sir. There's no disgrace about it. .. on the contrary."
"We're quite sure of that, Mme. Giry!"
"Well, it's like this...only the ghost doesn't like me to talk about his business."
"Indeed?" sneered Richard.
"But this is a matter that concerns myself alone....Well, it was in Box Five one evening, I found a letter addressed to myself, a sort of note written in red ink. I needn't read the letter to you sir; I know it by heart, and I shall never forget it if I live to be a hundred!"
And Mme. Giry, drawing herself up, recited the letter with touching eloquence:
1825. Mlle. Menetrier, leader of the ballet, became Marquise de Cussy.
1832. Mlle. Marie Taglioni, a dancer, became Comtesse Gilbert des Voisins.
1846. La Sota, a dancer, married a brother of the King of Spain.
1847. Lola Montes, a dancer, became the morganatic wife of King Louis of Bavaria and was created Countess of Landsfeld.
1848. Mlle. Maria, a dancer, became Baronne d'Herneville.
1870. Theresa Hessier, a dancer, married Dom Fernando, brother to the King of Portugal.
Richard and Moncharmin listened to the old woman, who, as she proceeded with the enumeration of these glorious nuptials, swelled out, took courage and, at last, in a voice bursting with pride, flung out the last sentence of the prophetic letter:
1885. Meg Giry, Empress!
Exhausted by this supreme effort, the box-keeper fell into a chair, saying:
"Gentlemen, the letter was signed, `Opera Ghost.' I had heard much of the ghost, but only half believed in him. From the day when he declared that my little Meg, the flesh of my flesh, the fruit of my womb, would be empress, I believed in him altogether."
And really it was not necessary to make a long study of Mme. Giry's excited features to understand what could be got out of that fine intellect with the two words "ghost" and "empress."
But who pulled the strings of that extraordinary puppet? That was the question.
"You have never seen him; he speaks to you and you believe all he says?" asked Moncharmin.
"Yes. To begin with, I owe it to him that my little Meg was promoted to be the leader of a row. I said to the ghost, `If she is to be empress in 1885, there is no time to lose; she must become a leader at once.' He said, `Look upon it as done.' And he had only a word to say to M. Poligny and the thing was done."
"So you see that M. Poligny saw him!"
"No, not any more than I did; but he heard him. The ghost said a word in his ear, you know, on the evening when he left Box Five, looking so dreadfully pale."
Moncharmin heaved a sigh. "What a business!" he groaned.
"Ah!" said Mme. Giry. "I always thought there were secrets between the ghost and M. Poligny. Anything that the ghost asked M. Poligny to do M. Poligny did. M. Poligny could refuse the ghost nothing."
"You hear, Richard: Poligny could refuse the ghost nothing."
"Yes, yes, I hear!" said Richard. "M. Poligny is a friend of the ghost; and, as Mme. Giry is a friend of M. Poligny, there we are! ... But I don't care a hang about M. Poligny," he added roughly. "The only person whose fate really interests me is Mme. Giry. ... Mme. Giry, do you know what is in this envelope?"
"Why, of course not," she said.
"Well, look."
Mine. Giry looked into the envelope with a lackluster eye, which soon recovered its brilliancy.
"Thousand-franc notes!" she cried.
"Yes, Mme. Giry, thousand-franc notes! And you knew it!"
"I, sir? I?...I swear..."
"Don't swear, Mme. Giry!...And now I will tell you the second reason why I sent for you. Mme. Giry, I am going to have you arrested."
The two black feathers on the dingy bonnet, which usually affected the attitude of two notes of interrogation, changed into two notes of exclamation; as for the bonnet itself, it swayed in menace on the old lady's tempestuous chignon. Surprise, indignation, protest and dismay were furthermore displayed by little Meg's mother in a sort of extravagant movement of offended virtue, half bound, half slide, that brought her right under the nose of M. Richard, who could not help pushing back his chair.
The mouth that spoke those words seemed to spit the three teeth that were left to it into Richard's face.
M. Richard behaved like a hero. He retreated no farther. His threatening forefinger seemed already to be pointing out the keeper of Box Five to the absent magistrates.
"I am going to have you arrested, Mme. Giry, as a thief!"
"Say that again!"
And Mme. Giry caught Mr. Manager Richard a mighty box on the ear, before Mr. Manager Mencharmin had time to intervene. But it was not the withered hand of the angry old beldame that fell on the managerial ear, but the envelope itself, the cause of all the trouble, the magic envelope that opened with the blow, scattering the bank-notes, which escaped in a fantastic whirl of giant butterflies.
The two managers gave a shout, and the same thought made them both go on their knees, feverishly, picking up and hurriedly examining the precious scraps of paper.
"Are they still genuine, Moncharmin?"
"Are they still genuine, Richard?"
"Yes, they are still genuine!"
Above their heads, Mme. Giry's three teeth were clashing in a noisy contest, full of hideous interjections. But all that could be dearly distinguished was this LEIT-MOTIF:
"I, a thief!...I, a thief, I?"
She choked with rage. She shouted:
"I never heard of such a thing!"
And, suddenly, she darted up to Richard again.
"In any case," she yelped, "you, M. Richard, ought to know better than I where the twenty thousand francs went to!"
"I?" asked Richard, astounded. "And how should I know?"
Moncharmin, looking severe and dissatisfied, at once insisted that the good lady should explain herself.
"What does this mean, Mme. Giry?" he asked. "And why do you say that M. Richard ought to know better than you where the twenty-thousand francs went to?"
As for Richard, who felt himself turning red under Moncharmin's eyes, he took Mme. Giry by the wrist and shook it violently. In a voice growling and rolling like thunder, he roared:
"Why should I know better than you where the twenty-thousand francs went to? Why? Answer me!"
"Because they went into your pocket!" gasped the old woman, looking at him as if he were the devil incarnate.
Richard would have rushed upon Mme. Giry, if Moncharmin had not stayed his avenging hand and hastened to ask her, more gently:
"How can you suspect my partner, M. Richard, of putting twenty-thousand francs in his pocket?"
"I never said that," declared Mme. Giry, "seeing that it was myself who put the twenty-thousand francs into M. Richard's pocket." And she added, under her voice, "There! It's out!...And may the ghost forgive me!"
Richard began bellowing anew, but Moncharmin authoritatively ordered him to be silent.
"Allow me! Allow me! Let the woman explain herself. Let me question her." And he added: "It is really astonishing that you should take up such a tone!...We are on the verge of clearing up the whole mystery. And you're in a rage!...You're wrong to behave like that. .. I'm enjoying myself immensely."
Mme. Giry, like the martyr that she was, raised her head, her face beaming with faith in her own innocence.
"You tell me there were twenty-thousand francs in the envelope which I put into M. Richard's pocket; but I tell you again that I knew nothing about it... Nor M. Richard either, for that matter!"
"Aha!" said Richard, suddenly assuming a swaggering air which Moncharmin did not like. "I knew nothing either! You put twenty-thousand francs in my pocket and I knew nothing either! I am very glad to hear it, Mme. Giry!"
"Yes," the terrible dame agreed, "yes, it's true. We neither of us knew anything. But you, you must have ended by finding out!"
Richard would certainly have swallowed Mme. Giry alive, if Moncharmin had not been there! But Moncharmin protected her. He resumed his questions:
"What sort of envelope did you put in M. Richard's pocket? It was not the one which we gave you, the one which you took to Box Five before our eyes; and yet that was the one which contained the twenty-thousand francs."
"I beg your pardon. The envelope which M. le Directeur gave me was the one which I slipped into M. le Directeur's pocket," explained Mme. Giry. "The one which I took to the ghost's box was another envelope, just like it, which the ghost gave me beforehand and which I hid up my sleeve."
So saying, Mme. Giry took from her sleeve an envelope ready prepared and similarly addressed to that containing the twenty-thousand francs. The managers took it from her. They examined it and saw that it was fastened with seals stamped with their own managerial seal. They opened it. It contained twenty Bank of St. Farce notes like those which had so much astounded them the month before.
"How simple!" said Richard.
"How simple!" repeated Moncharmin. And he continued with his eyes fixed upon Mme. Giry, as though trying to hypnotize her.
"So it was the ghost who gave you this envelope and told you to substitute it for the one which we gave you? And it was the ghost who told you to put the other into M. Richard's pocket?"
"Yes, it was the ghost."
"Then would you mind giving us a specimen of your little talents? Here is the envelope. Act as though we knew nothing."
"As you please, gentlemen."
Mme. Giry took the envelope with the twenty notes inside it and made for the door. She was on the point of going out when the two managers rushed at her:
"Oh, no! Oh, no! We're not going to be `done' a second time! Once bitten, twice shy!"
"I beg your pardon, gentlemen," said the old woman, in self-excuse, "you told me to act as though you knew nothing....Well, if you knew nothing, I should go away with your envelope!"
"And then how would you slip it into my pocket?" argued Richard, whom Moncharmin fixed with his left eye, while keeping his right on Mme. Giry: a proceeding likely to strain his sight, but Mon-MME. GIRY' charmin was prepared to go to any length to discover the truth.
"I am to slip it into your pocket when you least expect it, sir. You know that I always take a little turn behind the scenes, in the course of the evening, and I often go with my daughter to the ballet-foyer, which I am entitled to do, as her mother; I bring her her shoes, when the ballet is about to fact, I come and go as I please....The subscribers come and go too. ... So do you, sir....There are lots of people about... I go behind you and slip the envelope into the tail-pocket of your dress-coat....There's no witchcraft about that!"
"No witchcraft!" growled Richard, rolling his eyes like Jupiter Tonans. "No witchcraft! Why, I've just caught you in a lie, you old witch!"
Mme. Giry bristled, with her three teeth sticking out of her mouth.
"And why, may I ask?"
"Because I spent that evening watching Box Five and the sham envelope which you put there. I did not go to the ballet-foyer for a second."
"No, sir, and I did not give you the envelope that evening, but at the next performance...on the evening when the under-secretary of state for fine arts..."
At these words, M. Richard suddenly interrupted Mme. Giry:
"Yes, that's true, I remember now! The under-secretary went behind the scenes. He asked for me. I went down to the ballet-foyer for a moment. I was on the foyer steps....The under-secretary and his chief clerk were in the foyer itself. I suddenly turned had passed behind me, Mme. Giry... You seemed to push against me....Oh, I can see you still, I can see you still!"
"Yes, that's it, sir, that's it. I had just finished my little business. That pocket of yours, sir, is very handy!"
And Mme. Giry once more suited the action to the word, She passed behind M. Richard and, so nimbly that Moncharmin himself was impressed by it, slipped the envelope into the pocket of one of the tails of M. Richard's dress-coat.
"Of course!" exclaimed Richard, looking a little pale. "It's very clever of O. G. The problem which he had to solve was this: how to do away with any dangerous intermediary between the man who gives the twenty-thousand francs and the man who receives it. And by far the best thing he could hit upon was to come and take the money from my pocket without my noticing it, as I myself did not know that it was there. It's wonderful!"
"Oh, wonderful, no doubt!" Moncharmin agreed. "Only, you forget, Richard, that I provided ten-thousand francs of the twenty and that nobody put anything in my pocket!"

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 15

Raoul's first thought, after Christine Daae's fantastic disappearance, was to accuse Erik. He no longer doubted the almost supernatural powers of the Angel of Music, in this domain of the Opera in which he had set up his empire. And Raoul rushed on the stage, in a mad fit of love and despair.
"Christine! Christine!" he moaned, calling to her as he felt that she must be calling to him from the depths of that dark pit to which the monster had carried her. "Christine! Christine!"
And he seemed to hear the girl's screams through the frail boards that separated him from her. He bent forward, he listened, ...he wandered over the stage like a madman. Ah, to descend, to descend into that pit of darkness every entrance to which was closed to him,...for the stairs that led below the stage were forbidden to one and all that night!
"Christine! Christine!..."
People pushed him aside, laughing. They made fun of him. They thought the poor lover's brain was gone!
By what mad road, through what passages of mystery and darkness known to him alone had Erik dragged that pure-souled child to the awful haunt, with the Louis-Philippe room, opening out on the lake?
"Christine! Christine!...Why don't you answer?...Are you alive?..."
Hideous thoughts flashed through Raoul's congested brain. Of course, Erik must have discovered their secret, must have known that Christine had played him false. What a vengeance would be his!
And Raoul thought again of the yellow stars that had come, the night before, and roamed over his balcony. Why had he not put them out for good? There were some men's eyes that dilated in the darkness and shone like stars or like cats' eyes. Certainly Albinos, who seemed to have rabbits' eyes by day, had cats' eyes at night: everybody knew that!...Yes, yes, he had undoubtedly fired at Erik. Why had he not killed him? The monster had fled up the gutter-spout like a cat or a convict who--everybody knew that also--would scale the very skies, with the help of a gutter-spout....No doubt Erik was at that time contemplating some decisive step against Raoul, but he had been wounded and had escaped to turn against poor Christine instead.
Such were the cruel thoughts that haunted Raoul as he ran to the singer's dressing-room.
"Christine! Christine!"
Bitter tears scorched the boy's eyelids as he saw scattered over the furniture the clothes which his beautiful bride was to have worn at the hour of their flight. Oh, why had she refused to leave earlier?
Why had she toyed with the threatening catastrophe? Why toyed with the monster's heart? Why, in a final access of pity, had she insisted on flinging, as a last sop to that dcmon's soul, her divine song:
"Holy angel, in Heaven blessed, My spirit longs with thee to rest!"
Raoul, his throat filled with sobs, oaths and insults, fumbled awkwardly at the great mirror that had opened one night, before his eyes, to let Christine pass to the murky dwelling below. He pushed, pressed, groped about, but the glass apparently obeyed no one but Erik....Perhaps actions were not enough with a glass of the kind? Perhaps he was expected to utter certain words? When he was a little boy, he had heard that there were things that obeyed the spoken word!
Suddenly, Raoul remembered something about a gate opening into the Rue Scribe, an underground passage running straight to the Rue Scribe from the lake....Yes, Christine had told him about that. ...And, when he found that the key was no longer in the box, he nevertheless ran to the Rue Scribe. Outside, in the street, he passed his trembling hands over the huge stones, felt for outlets ...met with iron bars...were those they?...Or these?... Or could it be that air-hole?...He plunged his useless eyes through the bars....How dark it was in there!...He listened.... All was silence!...He went round the building...and came to bigger bars, immense gates!...It was the entrance to the Cour de I'Administration.
Raoul rushed into the doorkeeper's lodge.
"I beg your pardon, madame, could you tell me where to find a gate or door, made of bars, iron bars, opening into the Rue Scribe... and leading to the lake?...You know the lake I mean?...Yes, the underground lake...under the Opera."
"Yes, sir, I know there is a lake under the Opera, but I don't know which door leads to it. I have never been there!"
"And the Rue Scribe, madame, the Rue Scribe? Have you never been to the Rue Scribe?"
The woman laughed, screamed with laughter! Raoul darted away, roaring with anger, ran up-stairs, four stairs at a time, down-stairs, rushed through the whole of the business side of the opera-house, found himself once more in the light of the stage.
He stopped, with his heart thumping in his chest: suppose Christine Daae had been found? He saw a group of men and asked:
"I beg your pardon, gentlemen. Could you tell me where Christine Daae is?"
And somebody laughed.
At the same moment the stage buzzed with a new sound and, amid a crowd of men in evening-dress, all talking and gesticulating together, appeared a man who seemed very calm and displayed a pleasant face, all pink and chubby-cheeked, crowned with curly hair and lit up by a pair of wonderfully serene blue eyes. Mercier, the acting-manager, called the Vicomte de Chagny's attention to him and said:
"This is the gentleman to whom you should put your question, monsieur. Let me introduce Mifroid, the commissary of police."
"Ah, M. le Vicomte de Chagny! Delighted to meet you, monsieur," said the commissary. "Would you mind coming with me?...And now where are the managers?...Where are the managers?"
Mercier did not answer, and Remy, the secretary, volunteered the information that the managers were locked up in their office and that they knew nothing as yet of what had happened.
"You don't mean to say so! Let us go up to the office!"
And M. Mifroid, followed by an ever-increasing crowd, turned toward the business side of the building. Mercier took advantage of the confusion to slip a key into Gabriel's hand:
"This is all going very badly," he whispered. "You had better let Mother Giry out."
And Gabriel moved away.
They soon came to the managers' door. Mercier stormed in vain: the door remained closed.
"Open in the name of the law!" commanded M. Mifroid, in a loud and rather anxious voice.
At last the door was opened. All rushed in to the office, on the commissary's heels.
Raoul was the last to enter. As he was about to follow the rest into the room, a hand was laid on his shoulder and he heard these words spoken in his ear:
He turned around, with a stifled exclamation. The hand that was laid on his shoulder was now placed on the lips of a person with an ebony skin, with eyes of jade and with an astrakhan cap on his head: the Persian! The stranger kept up the gesture that recommended discretion and then, at the moment when the astonished viscount was about to ask the reason of his mysterious intervention, bowed and disappeared.

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 14

Behind the curtain, there was an indescribable crowd. Artists, scene-shifters, dancers, supers, choristers, subscribers were all asking questions, shouting and hustling one another.
"What became of her?"
"She's run away."
"With the Vicomte de Chagny, of course!"
"No, with the count!"
"Ah, here's Carlotta! Carlotta did the trick!"
"No, it was the ghost!" And a few laughed, especially as a careful examination of the trap-doors and boards had put the idea of an accident out of the question.
Amid this noisy throng, three men stood talking in a low voice and with despairing gestures. They were Gabriel, the chorus-master; Mercier, the acting-manager; and Remy, the secretary. They retired to a corner of the lobby by which the stage communicates with the wide passage leading to the foyer of the ballet. Here they stood and argued behind some enormous "properties."
"I knocked at the door," said Remy. "They did not answer. Perhaps they are not in the office. In any case, it's impossible to find out, for they took the keys with them,"
"They" were obviously the managers, who had given orders, during the last entr'acte, that they were not to be disturbed on any pretext whatever. They were not in to anybody.
"All the same," exclaimed Gabriel, "a singer isn't run away with, from the middle of the stage, every day!"
"Did you shout that to them?" asked Mercier, impatiently.
"I'll go back again," said Remy, and disappeared at a run.
Thereupon the stage-manager arrived.
"Well, M. Mercier, are you coming? What are you two doing here? You're wanted, Mr. Acting-Manager."
"I refuse to know or to do anything before the commissary arrives," declared Mercier. "I have sent for Mifroid. We shall see when he comes!"
"And I tell you that you ought to go down to the organ at once."
"Not before the commissary comes."
"I've been down to the organ myself already."
"Ah! And what did you see?"
"Well, I saw nobody! Do you hear--nobody!"
"What do you want me to do down there for{sic}?"
"You're right!" said the stage-manager, frantically pushing his hands through his rebellious hair. "You're right! But there might be some one at the organ who could tell us how the stage came to be suddenly darkened. Now Mauclair is nowhere to be found. Do you understand that?"
Mauclair was the gas-man, who dispensed day and night at will on the stage of the Opera.
"Mauclair is not to be found!" repeated Mercier, taken aback. "Well, what about his assistants?"
"There's no Mauclair and no assistants! No one at the lights, I tell you! You can imagine," roared the stage-manager, "that that little girl must have, been carried off by somebody else: she didn't run away by herself! It was a calculated stroke and we have to find out about it....And what are the managers doing all this time? ... I gave orders that no one was to go down to the lights and I posted a fireman in front of the gas-man's box beside the organ. Wasn't that right?"
"Yes, yes, quite right, quite right. And now let's wait for the commissary."
The stage-manager walked away, shrugging his shoulders, fuming, muttering insults at those milksops who remained quietly squatting in a corner while the whole theater was topsyturvy{sic}.
Gabriel and Mercier were not so quiet as all that. Only they had received an order that paralyzed them. The managers were not to be disturbed on any account. Remy had violated that order and met with no success.
At that moment he returned from his new expedition, wearing a curiously startled air.
"Well, have you seen them?" asked Mercier.
"Moncharmin opened the door at last. His eyes were starting out of his head. I thought he meant to strike me. I could not get a word in; and what do you think he shouted at me? `Have you a safety-pin?' `No!' `Well, then, clearout!' I tried to tell him that an unheard-of thing had happened on the stage, but he roared, `A safety-pin! Give me a safety-pin at once!' A boy heard him-- he was bellowing like a bull--ran up with a safety-pin and gave it to him; whereupon Moncharmin slammed the door in my face, and there you are!"
"And couldn't you have said, `Christine Daae.'"
"I should like to have seen you in my place. He was foaming at the mouth. He thought of nothing but his safety-pin. I believe, if they hadn't brought him one on the spot, he would have fallen down in a fit!...Oh, all this isn't natural; and our managers are going mad!...Besides, it can't go on like this! I'm not used to being treated in that fashion!"
Suddenly Gabriel whispered:
"It's another trick of O. G.'s."
Rimy gave a grin, Mercier a sigh and seemed about to speak...but, meeting Gabriel's eye, said nothing.
However, Mercier felt his responsibility increased as the minutes passed without the managers' appearing; and, at last, he could stand it no longer.
"Look here, I'll go and hunt them out myself!"
Gabriel, turning very gloomy and serious, stopped him.
"Be careful what you're doing, Mercier! If they're staying in their office, it's probably because they have to! O. G. has more than one trick in his bag!"
But Mercier shook his head.
"That's their lookout! I'm going! If people had listened to me, the police would have known everything long ago!"
And he went.
"What's everything?" asked Remy. "What was there to tell the police? Why don't you answer, Gabriel?...Ah, so you know something! Well, you would do better to tell me, too, if you don't want me to shout out that you are all going mad!...Yes, that's what you are: mad!"
Gabriel put on a stupid look and pretended not to understand the private secretary's unseemly outburst.
"What `something' am I supposed to know?" he said. "I don't know what you mean."
Remy began to lose his temper.
"This evening, Richard and Moncharmin were behaving like lunatics, here, between the acts."
"I never noticed it," growled Gabriel, very much annoyed.
"Then you're the only one!...Do you think that I didn't see them?...And that M. Parabise, the manager of the Credit Central, noticed nothing?...And that M. de La Borderie, the ambassador, has no eyes to see with?...Why, all the subscribers were pointing at our managers!"
"But what were our managers doing?" asked Gabriel, putting on his most innocent air.
"What were they doing? You know better than any one what they were doing!...You were there!...And you were watching them, you and Mercier!...And you were the only two who didn't laugh.
"I don't understand!"
Gabriel raised his arms and dropped them to his sides again, which gesture was meant to convey that the question did not interest him in the least. Remy continued:
"What is the sense of this new mania of theirs? WHY WON'T THEY HAVE ANY ONE COME NEAR, THEM NOW?"
"Really? Have you noticed THAT THEY WON'T LET ANY ONE TOUCH THEM? That is certainly odd!"
"Oh, so you admit it! And high time, too! And THEN, THEY WALK BACKWARD!"
"BACKWARD! You have seen our managers WALK BACKWARD? Why, I thought that only crabs walked backward!"
"Don't laugh, Gabriel; don't laugh!"
"I'm not laughing," protested Gabriel, looking as solemn as a judge.
"Perhaps you can tell me this, Gabriel, as you're an intimate friend of the management: When I went up to M. Richard, outside the foyer, during the Garden interval, with my hand out before me, why did M. Moncharmin hurriedly whisper to me, `Go away! Go away! Whatever you do, don't touch M. le Directeur!' Am I supposed to have an infectious disease?"
"It's incredible!"
"And, a little later, when M. de La Borderie went up to M. Richard, didn't you see M. Moncharmin fling himself between them and hear him exclaim, `M. l'Ambassadeur I entreat you not to touch M. le Directeur'?"
"It's terrible!...And what was Richard doing meanwhile?"
"What was he doing? Why, you saw him! He turned about, BOWED IN FRONT OF HIM, THOUGH THERE WAS NOBODY IN FRONT OF HIM, AND WITHDREW BACKWARD."
"And Moncharmin, behind Richard, also turned about; that is, he described a semicircle behind Richard and also WALKED BACKWARD!...And they went LIKE THAT to the staircase leading to the managers' office: BACKWARD, BACKWARD, BACKWARD! ... Well, if they are not mad, will you explain what it means?"
"Perhaps they were practising a figure in the ballet," suggested Gabriel, without much conviction in his voice.
The secretary was furious at this wretched joke, made at so dramatic a moment. He knit his brows and contracted his lips. Then he put his mouth to Gabriel's ear:
"Don't be so sly, Gabriel. There are things going on for which you and Mercier are partly responsible."
"What do you mean?" asked Gabriel.
"Christine Daae is not the only one who suddenly disappeared to-night."
"Oh, nonsense!"
"There's no nonsense about it. Perhaps you can tell me why, when Mother Giry came down to the foyer just now, Mercier took her by the hand and hurried her away with him?"
"Really?" said Gabriel, "I never saw it."
"You did see it, Gabriel, for you went with Mercier and Mother Giry to Mercier's office. Since then, you and Mercier have been seen, but no one has seen Mother Giry."
"Do you think we've eaten her?"
"No, but you've locked her up in the office; and any one passing the office can hear her yelling, `Oh, the scoundrels! Oh, the scoundrels!'"
At this point of this singular conversation, Mercier arrived, all out of breath.
"There!" he said, in a gloomy voice. "It's worse than ever!... I shouted, `It's a serious matter! Open the door! It's I, Mercier.' I heard footsteps. The door opened and Moncharmin appeared. He was very pale. He said, `What do you want?' I answered, `Some one has run away with Christine Daae.' What do you think he said? `And a good job, too!' And he shut the door, after putting this in my hand."
Mercier opened his hand; Remy and Gabriel looked.
"The safety-pin!" cried Remy.
"Strange! Strange!" muttered Gabriel, who could not help shivering.
Suddenly a voice made them all three turn round.
"I beg your pardon, gentlemen. Could you tell me where Christine Daae is?"
In spite of the seriousness of the circumstances, the absurdity of the question would have made them roar with laughter, if they had not caught sight of a face so sorrow-stricken that they were at once seized with pity. It was the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny.

The phantom of the opera - Chapter 13

Raoul and Christine ran, eager to escape from the roof and the blazing eyes that showed only in the dark; and they did not stop before they came to the eighth floor on the way down.
There was no performance at the Opera that night and the passages were empty. Suddenly, a queer-looking form stood before them and blocked the road:
"No, not this way!"
And the form pointed to another passage by which they were to reach the wings. Raoul wanted to stop and ask for an explanation. But the form, which wore a sort of long frock-coat and a pointed cap, said:
"Quick! Go away quickly!"
Christine was already dragging Raoul, compelling him to start running again.
"But who is he? Who is that man?" he asked.
Christine replied: "It's the Persian."
"What's he doing here?"
"Nobody knows. He is always in the Opera."
"You are making me run away, for the first time in my life. If we really saw Erik, what I ought to have done was to nail him to Apollo's lyre, just as we nail the owls to the walls of our Breton farms; and there would have been no more question of him."
"My dear Raoul, you would first have had to climb up to Apollo's lyre: that is no easy matter."
"The blazing eyes were there!"
"Oh, you are getting like me now, seeing him everywhere! What I took for blazing eyes was probably a couple of stars shining through the strings of the lyre."
And Christine went down another floor, with Raoul following her.
"As you have quite made up your mind to go, Christine, I assure you it would be better to go at once. Why wait for to-morrow? He may have heard us to-night."
"No, no, he is working, I tell you, at his Don Juan Triumphant and not thinking of us."
"You're so sure of that you keep on looking behind you!"
"Come to my dressing-room."
"Hadn't we better meet outside the Opera?"
"Never, till we go away for good! It would bring us bad luck, if I did not keep my word. I promised him to see you only here."
"It's a good thing for me that he allowed you even that. Do you know," said Raoul bitterly, "that it was very plucky of you to let us play at being engaged?"
"Why, my dear, he knows all about it! He said, `I trust you, Christine. M. de Chagny is in love with you and is going abroad. Before he goes, I want him to be as happy as I am.' Are people so unhappy when they love?"
"Yes, Christine, when they love and are not sure of being loved."
They came to Christine's dressing-room.
"Why do you think that you are safer in this room than on the stage?" asked Raoul. "You heard him through the walls here, therefore he can certainly hear us."
"No. He gave me his word not to be behind the walls of my dressing-room again and I believe Erik's word. This room and my bedroom on the lake are for me, exclusively, and not to be approached by him."
"How can you have gone from this room into that dark passage, Christine? Suppose we try to repeat your movements; shall we?"
"It is dangerous, dear, for the glass might carry me off again; and, instead of running away, I should be obliged to go to the end of the secret passage to the lake and there call Erik."
"Would he hear you?"
"Erik will hear me wherever I call him. He told me so. He is a very curious genius. You must not think, Raoul, that he is simply a man who amuses himself by living underground. He does things that no other man could do; he knows things which nobody in the world knows."
"Take care, Christine, you are making a ghost of him again!"
"No, he is not a ghost; he is a man of Heaven and earth, that is all."
"A man of Heaven and earth...that is al!...A nice way to speak of him! ...And are you still resolved to run away from him?"
"Yes, to-morrow."
"To-morrow, you will have no resolve left!"
"Then, Raoul, you must run away with me in spite of myself; is that understood?"
"I shall be here at twelve to-morrow night; I shall keep my promise, whatever happens. You say that, after listening to the performance, he is to wait for you in the dining-room on the lake?"
"And how are you to reach him, if you don't know how to go out by the glass?"
"Why, by going straight to the edge of the lake."
Christine opened a box, took out an enormous key and showed it to Raoul.
"What's that?" he asked.
"The key of the gate to the underground passage in the Rue Scribe."
"I understand, Christine. It leads straight to the lake. Give it to me, Christine, will you?"
"Never!" she said. "That would bet reacherous!"
Suddenly Christine changed color. A mortal pallor overspread her features.
"Oh heavens!" she cried. "Erik! Erik! Have pity on me!"
"Hold your tongue!" said Raoul. "You told me he could hear you!"
But the singer's attitude became more and more inexplicable. She wrung her fingers, repeating, with a distraught air;
"Oh, Heaven! Oh, Heaven!"
"But what is it? What is it?" Raoul implored.
"The ring...the gold ring he gave me."
"Oh, so Erik gave you that ring!"
"You know he did, Raoul! But what you don't know is that, when he gave it to me, he said, `I give you back your liberty, Christine, on condition that this ring is always on your finger. As long as you keep it, you will be protected against all danger and Erik will remain your friend. But woe to you if you ever part with it, for Erik will have his revenge!'...My dear, my dear, the ring is gone!...Woe to us both!"
They both looked for the ring, but could not find it. Christine refused to be pacified.
"It was while I gave you that kiss, up above, under Apollo's lyre," she said. "The ring must have slipped from my finger and dropped into the street! We can never find it. And what misfortunes are in store for us now! Oh, to run away!"
"Let us run away at once," Raoul insisted, once more.
She hesitated. He thought that she was going to say yes. ... Then her bright pupils became dimmed and she said:
"No! To-morrow!"
And she left him hurriedly, still wringing and rubbing her fingers, as though she hoped to bring the ring back like that.
Raoul went home, greatly perturbed at all that he had heard.
{two page color illustration}They Sat Like that for a Moment in Silence
"If I don't save her from the hands of that humbug," he said, aloud, as he went to bed, "she is lost. But I shall save her."
He put out his lamp and felt a need to insult Erik in the dark. Thrice over, he shouted:
But, suddenly, he raised himself on his elbow. A cold sweat poured from his temples. Two eyes, like blazing coals, had appeared at the foot of his bed. They stared at him fixedly, terribly, in the darkness of the night.
Raoul was no coward; and yet he trembled. He put out a groping, hesitating hand toward the table by his bedside. He found the matches and lit his candle. The eyes disappeared.
Still uneasy in his mind, he thought to himself:
"She told me that HIS eyes only showed in the dark. His eyes have disappeared in the light, but HE may be there still."
And he rose, hunted about, went round the room. He looked under his bed, like a child. Then he thought himself absurd, got into bed again and blew out the candle. The eyes reappeared.
He sat up and stared back at them with all the courage he possessed. Then he cried:
"Is that you, Erik? Man, genius, or ghost, is it you?"
He reflected: "If it's he, he's on the balcony!"
Then he ran to the chest of drawers and groped for his revolver. He opened the balcony window, looked out, saw nothing and dosed the window again. He went back to bed, shivering, for the night was cold, and put the revolver on the table within his reach.
The eyes were still there, at the foot of the bed. Were they between the bed and the window-pane or behind the pane, that is to say, on the balcony? That was what Raoul wanted to know. He also wanted to know if those eyes belonged to a human being. ...He wanted to know everything. Then, patiently, calmly, he seized his revolver and took aim. He aimed a little above the two eyes. Surely, if they were eyes and if above those two eyes there was a forehead and if Raoul was not too clumsy...
The shot made a terrible din amid the silence of the slumbering house. And, while footsteps came hurrying along the passages, Raoul sat up with outstretched arm, ready to fire again, if need be.
This time, the two eyes had disappeared.
Servants appeared, carrying lights; Count Philippe, terribly anxious:
"What is it?"
"I think I have been dreaming," replied the young man. "I fired at two stars that kept me from sleeping."
"You're raving! Are you ill? For God's sake, tell me, Raoul: what happened?"
And the count seized hold of the revolver.
"No, no, I'm not raving. .. Besides, we shall soon see..."
He got out of bed, put on a dressing-gown and slippers, took a light from the hands of a servant and, opening the window, stepped out on the balcony.
The count saw that the window had been pierced by a bullet at a man's height. Raoul was leaning over the balcony with his candle: "Aha!" he said. "Blood!...Blood!..... Here, there, more blood! ... That's a good thing! A ghost who bleeds is less dangerous!" he grinned.
"Raoul! Raoul! Raoul!"
The count was shaking him as though he were trying to waken a sleep-walker.
"But, my dear brother, I'm not asleep!" Raoul protested impatiently. "You can see the blood for yourself. I thought I had been dreaming and firing at two stars. It was Erik's eyes...and here is his blood!...After all, perhaps I was wrong to shoot; and Christine is quite capable of never forgiving me....All this would not have happened if I had drawn the curtains before going to bed."
"Raoul, have you suddenly gone mad? Wake up!"
"What, still? You would do better to help me find Erik...for, after all, a ghost who bleeds can always be found."
The count's valet said:
"That is so, sir; there is blood on the balcony."
The other man-servant brought a lamp, by the light of which they examined the balcony carefully. The marks of blood followed the rail till they reached a gutter-spout; then they went up the gutter-spout.
"My dear fellow," said Count Philippe, "you have fired at a cat."
"The misfortune is," said Raoul, with a grin, "that it's quite possible. With Erik, you never know. Is it Erik? Is it the cat? Is it the ghost? No, with Erik, you can't tell!"
Raoul went on making this strange sort of remarks which corresponded so intimately and logically with the preoccupation of his brain and which, at the same time, tended to persuade many people that his mind was unhinged. The count himself was seized with this idea; and, later, the examining magistrate, on receiving the report of the commissary of police, came to the same conclusion.
"Who is Erik?" asked the count, pressing his brother's hand.
"He is my rival. And, if he's not dead, it's a pity."
He dismissed the servants with a wave of the hand and the two Chagnys were left alone. But the men were not out of earshot before the count's valet heard Raoul say, distinctly and emphatically:
"I shall carry off Christine Daae to-night."
This phrase was afterward repeated to M. Faure, the examining-magistrate. But no one ever knew exactly what passed between the two brothers at this interview. The servants declared that this was not their first quarrel. Their voices penetrated the wall; and it was always an actress called Christine Daae that was in question.
At breakfast--the early morning breakfast, which the count took in his study--Philippe sent for his brother. Raoul arrived silent and gloomy. The scene was a very short one. Philippe handed his brother a copy of the Epoque and said:
"Read that!"
The viscount read:
"The latest news in the Faubourg is that there is a promise of marriage between Mlle. Christine Daae, the opera-singer, and M. le Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. If the gossips are to be credited, Count Philippe has sworn that, for the first time on record, the Chagnys shall not keep their promise. But, as love is all-powerful, at the Opera as-- and even more than--elsewhere, we wonder how Count Philippe intends to prevent the viscount, his brother, from leading the new Margarita to the altar. The two brothers are said to adore each other; but the count is curiously mistaken if he imagines that brotherly love will triumph over love pure and simple."
"You see, Raoul," said the count, "you are making us ridiculous! That little girl has turned your head with her ghost-stories."
The viscount had evidently repeated Christine's narrative to his brother, during the night. All that he now said was:
"Good-by, Philippe."
"Have you quite made up your mind? You are going to-night? With her?"
No reply.
"Surely you will not do anything so foolish? I SHALL know how to prevent you!"
"Good-by, Philippe," said the viscount again and left the room.
This scene was described to the examining-magistrate by the count himself, who did not see Raoul again until that evening, at the Opera, a few minutes before Christine's disappearance.
Raoul, in fact, devoted the whole day to his preparations for the flight. The horses, the carriage, the coachman, the provisions, the luggage, the money required for the journey, the road to be taken (he had resolved not to go by train, so as to throw the ghost off the scent): all this had to be settled and provided for; and it occupied him until nine o'clock at night.
At nine o'clock, a sort of traveling-barouche with the curtains of its windows close-down, took its place in the rank on the Rotunda side. It was drawn by two powerful horses driven by a coachman whose face was almost concealed in the long folds of a muffler. In front of this traveling-carriage were three broughams, belonging respectively to Carlotta, who had suddenly returned to Paris, to Sorelli and, at the head of the rank, to Comte Philippe de Chagny. No one left the barouche. The coachman remained on his box, and the three other coachmen remained on theirs.
A shadow in a long black cloak and a soft black felt hat passed along the pavement between the Rotunda and the carriages, examined the barouche carefully, went up to the horses and the coachman and then moved away without saying a word, The magistrate afterward believed that this shadow was that of the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny; but I do not agree, seeing that that evening, as every evening, the Vicomte de Chagny was wearing a tall hat, which hat, besides, was subsequently found. I am more inclined to think that the shadow was that of the ghost, who knew all about the whole affair, as the reader will soon perceive.
They were giving FAUST, as it happened, before a splendid house. The Faubourg was magnificently represented; and the paragraph in that morning's EPOQUE had already produced its effect, for all eyes were turned to the box in which Count Philippe sat alone, apparently in a very indifferent and careless frame of mind. The feminine element in the brilliant audience seemed curiously puzzled; and the viscount's absence gave rise to any amount of whispering behind the fans. Christine Daae met with a rather cold reception. That special audience could not forgive her for aiming so high.
The singer noticed this unfavorable attitude of a portion of the house and was confused by it.
The regular frequenters of the Opera, who pretended to know the truth about the viscount's love-story, exchanged significant smiles at certain passages in Margarita's part; and they made a show of turning and looking at Philippe de Chagny's box when Christine sang:
"I wish I could but know who was he That addressed me, If he was noble, or, at least, what his name is."
The count sat with his chin on his hand and seemed to pay no attention to these manifestations. He kept his eyes fixed on the stage; but his thoughts appeared to be far away.
Christine lost her self-assurance more and more. She trembled. She felt on the verge of a breakdown....Carolus Fonta wondered if she was ill, if she could keep the stage until the end of the Garden Act. In the front of the house, people remembered the catastrophe that had befallen Carlotta at the end of that act and the historic "co-ack" which had momentarily interrupted her career in Paris.
Just then, Carlotta made her entrance in a box facing the stage, a sensational entrance. Poor Christine raised her eyes upon this fresh subject of excitement. She recognized her rival. She thought she saw a sneer on her lips. That saved her. She forgot everything, in order to triumph once more.
From that moment the prima donna sang with all her heart and soul. She tried to surpass all that she had done till then; and she succeeded. In the last act when she began the invocation to the angels, she made all the members of the audience feel as though they too had wings.
In the center of the amphitheater a man stood up and remained standing, facing the singer. It was Raoul.
"Holy angel, in Heaven blessed..."
And Christine, her arms outstretched, her throat filled with music, the glory of her hair falling over her bare shoulders, uttered the divine cry:
"My spirit longs with thee to rest!"
It was at that moment that the stage was suddenly plunged in darkness. It happened so quickly that the spectators hardly had time to utter a sound of stupefaction, for the gas at once lit up the stage again. But Christine Daae was no longer there!
What had become of her? What was that miracle? All exchanged glances without understanding, and the excitement at once reached its height. Nor was the tension any less great on the stage itself. Men rushed from the wings to the spot where Christine had been singing that very instant. The performance was interrupted amid the greatest disorder.
Where had Christine gone? What witchcraft had snatched her, away before the eyes of thousands of enthusiastic onlookers and from the arms of Carolus Fonta himself? It was as though the angels had really carried her up "to rest."
Raoul, still standing up in the amphitheater, had uttered a cry. Count Philippe had sprung to his feet in his box. People looked at the stage, at the count, at Raoul, and wondered if this curious event was connected in any way with the paragraph in that morning's paper. But Raoul hurriedly left his seat, the count disappeared from his box and, while the curtain was lowered, the subscribers rushed to the door that led behind the scenes. The rest of the audience waited amid an indescribable hubbub. Every one spoke at once. Every one tried to suggest an explanation of the extraordinary incident.
At last, the curtain rose slowly and Carolus Fonta stepped to the conductor's desk and, in a sad and serious voice, said:
"Ladies and gentlemen, an unprecedented event has taken place and thrown us into a state of the greatest alarm. Our sister-artist, Christine Daae, has disappeared before our eyes and nobody can tell us how!"