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The Phantom of the Opera (Chapter15)

2006-08-28 23:37

  XV. Christine! Christine!

  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:

  "Erik's secrets concern no one but himself!"

  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.

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