The Phantom of the Opera (Chapter 6, page 1 of 2)


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Chapter 6

We left M. Firmin Richard and M. Armand Moncharmin at the moment when
they were deciding "to look into that little matter of Box Five."

Leaving behind them the broad staircase which leads from the lobby
outside the managers' offices to the stage and its dependencies, they
crossed the stage, went out by the subscribers' door and entered the
house through the first little passage on the left. Then they made
their way through the front rows of stalls and looked at Box Five on
the grand tier, They could not see it well, because it was half in
darkness and because great covers were flung over the red velvet of the
ledges of all the boxes.

They were almost alone in the huge, gloomy house; and a great silence
surrounded them. It was the time when most of the stage-hands go out
for a drink. The staff had left the boards for the moment, leaving a
scene half set. A few rays of light, a wan, sinister light, that
seemed to have been stolen from an expiring luminary, fell through some
opening or other upon an old tower that raised its pasteboard
battlements on the stage; everything, in this deceptive light, adopted
a fantastic shape. In the orchestra stalls, the drugget covering them
looked like an angry sea, whose glaucous waves had been suddenly
rendered stationary by a secret order from the storm phantom, who, as
everybody knows, is called Adamastor. MM. Moncharmin and Richard were
the shipwrecked mariners amid this motionless turmoil of a calico sea.
They made for the left boxes, plowing their way like sailors who leave
their ship and try to struggle to the shore. The eight great polished
columns stood up in the dusk like so many huge piles supporting the
threatening, crumbling, big-bellied cliffs whose layers were
represented by the circular, parallel, waving lines of the balconies of
the grand, first and second tiers of boxes. At the top, right on top
of the cliff, lost in M. Lenepveu's copper ceiling, figures grinned and
grimaced, laughed and jeered at MM. Richard and Moncharmin's distress.
And yet these figures were usually very serious. Their names were
Isis, Amphitrite, Hebe, Pandora, Psyche, Thetis, Pomona, Daphne,
Clytie, Galatea and Arethusa. Yes, Arethusa herself and Pandora, whom
we all know by her box, looked down upon the two new managers of the
Opera, who ended by clutching at some piece of wreckage and from there
stared silently at Box Five on the grand tier.

I have said that they were distressed. At least, I presume so. M.
Moncharmin, in any case, admits that he was impressed. To quote his
own words, in his Memoirs: "This moonshine about the Opera ghost in which, since we first took
over the duties of MM. Poligny and Debienne, we had been so nicely
steeped"--Moncharmin's style is not always irreproachable--"had no
doubt ended by blinding my imaginative and also my visual faculties.
It may be that the exceptional surroundings in which we found
ourselves, in the midst of an incredible silence, impressed us to an
unusual extent. It may be that we were the sport of a kind of
hallucination brought about by the semi-darkness of the theater and the
partial gloom that filled Box Five. At any rate, I saw and Richard
also saw a shape in the box. Richard said nothing, nor I either. But
we spontaneously seized each other's hand. We stood like that for some
minutes, without moving, with our eyes fixed on the same point; but the
figure had disappeared. Then we went out and, in the lobby,
communicated our impressions to each other and talked about 'the
shape.' The misfortune was that my shape was not in the least like
Richard's. I had seen a thing like a death's head resting on the ledge
of the box, whereas Richard saw the shape of an old woman who looked
like Mme. Giry. We soon discovered that we had really been the victims
of an illusion, whereupon, without further delay and laughing like
madmen, we ran to Box Five on the grand tier, went inside and found no
shape of any kind."

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