The Phantom of the Opera (Prologue, page 1 of 4)


 
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The Opera ghost really existed. He was not, as was long believed, a
creature of the imagination of the artists, the superstition of the
managers, or a product of the absurd and impressionable brains of the
young ladies of the ballet, their mothers, the box-keepers, the
cloak-room attendants or the concierge. Yes, he existed in flesh and
blood, although he assumed the complete appearance of a real phantom;
that is to say, of a spectral shade.

When I began to ransack the archives of the National Academy of Music I
was at once struck by the surprising coincidences between the phenomena
ascribed to the "ghost" and the most extraordinary and fantastic
tragedy that ever excited the Paris upper classes; and I soon conceived
the idea that this tragedy might reasonably be explained by the
phenomena in question. The events do not date more than thirty years
back; and it would not be difficult to find at the present day, in the
foyer of the ballet, old men of the highest respectability, men upon
whose word one could absolutely rely, who would remember as though they
happened yesterday the mysterious and dramatic conditions that attended
the kidnapping of Christine Daae, the disappearance of the Vicomte de
Chagny and the death of his elder brother, Count Philippe, whose body
was found on the bank of the lake that exists in the lower cellars of
the Opera on the Rue-Scribe side. But none of those witnesses had
until that day thought that there was any reason for connecting the
more or less legendary figure of the Opera ghost with that terrible
story.

The truth was slow to enter my mind, puzzled by an inquiry that at
every moment was complicated by events which, at first sight, might be
looked upon as superhuman; and more than once I was within an ace of
abandoning a task in which I was exhausting myself in the hopeless
pursuit of a vain image. At last, I received the proof that my
presentiments had not deceived me, and I was rewarded for all my
efforts on the day when I acquired the certainty that the Opera ghost
was more than a mere shade.

On that day, I had spent long hours over THE MEMOIRS OF A MANAGER, the
light and frivolous work of the too-skeptical Moncharmin, who, during
his term at the Opera, understood nothing of the mysterious behavior of
the ghost and who was making all the fun of it that he could at the
very moment when he became the first victim of the curious financial
operation that went on inside the "magic envelope."

 
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