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...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 Paris...by 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!"