A master-stroke of the trap-door lover
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 all! … A nice way to speak of him! … And are you still resolved to run away from him?"
"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 be treacherous!"
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:
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.
[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:
"Humbug! … Humbug! … Humbug!"
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 closed 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:
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:
"Have you quite made up your mind? You are going to-night? With her?"
"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!"