The Phantom of the Opera (Chapter 3, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 3

During this time, the farewell ceremony was taking place. I have
already said that this magnificent function was being given on the
occasion of the retirement of M. Debienne and M. Poligny, who had
determined to "die game," as we say nowadays. They had been assisted
in the realization of their ideal, though melancholy, program by all
that counted in the social and artistic world of Paris. All these
people met, after the performance, in the foyer of the ballet, where
Sorelli waited for the arrival of the retiring managers with a glass of
champagne in her hand and a little prepared speech at the tip of her
tongue. Behind her, the members of the Corps de Ballet, young and old,
discussed the events of the day in whispers or exchanged discreet
signals with their friends, a noisy crowd of whom surrounded the
supper-tables arranged along the slanting floor.

A few of the dancers had already changed into ordinary dress; but most
of them wore their skirts of gossamer gauze; and all had thought it the
right thing to put on a special face for the occasion: all, that is,
except little Jammes, whose fifteen summers--happy age!--seemed already
to have forgotten the ghost and the death of Joseph Buquet. She never
ceased to laugh and chatter, to hop about and play practical jokes,
until Mm. Debienne and Poligny appeared on the steps of the foyer, when
she was severely called to order by the impatient Sorelli.

Everybody remarked that the retiring managers looked cheerful, as is
the Paris way. None will ever be a true Parisian who has not learned
to wear a mask of gaiety over his sorrows and one of sadness, boredom
or indifference over his inward joy. You know that one of your friends
is in trouble; do not try to console him: he will tell you that he is
already comforted; but, should he have met with good fortune, be
careful how you congratulate him: he thinks it so natural that he is
surprised that you should speak of it. In Paris, our lives are one
masked ball; and the foyer of the ballet is the last place in which two
men so "knowing" as M. Debienne and M. Poligny would have made the
mistake of betraying their grief, however genuine it might be. And
they were already smiling rather too broadly upon Sorelli, who had
begun to recite her speech, when an exclamation from that little madcap
of a Jammes broke the smile of the managers so brutally that the
expression of distress and dismay that lay beneath it became apparent
to all eyes: "The Opera ghost!"

Jammes yelled these words in a tone of unspeakable terror; and her
finger pointed, among the crowd of dandies, to a face so pallid, so
lugubrious and so ugly, with two such deep black cavities under the
straddling eyebrows, that the death's head in question immediately
scored a huge success.

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