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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Phantom Of The Opera - Chapter IV - BOX FIVE
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The Phantom Of The Opera - Chapter IV - BOX FIVE Post by :rex470 Category :Long Stories Author :Gaston Leroux Date :April 2011 Read :1528

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The Phantom Of The Opera - Chapter IV - BOX FIVE

Armand Moncharmin wrote such voluminous Memoirs during the fairly long
period of his co-management that we may well ask if he ever found
time to attend to the affairs of the Opera otherwise than by telling
what went on there. M. Moncharmin did not know a note of music,
but he called the minister of education and fine arts by his
Christian name, had dabbled a little in society journalism and enjoyed
a considerable private income. Lastly, he was a charming fellow
and showed that he was not lacking in intelligence, for, as soon as he
made up his mind to be a sleeping partner in the Opera, he selected
the best possible active manager and went straight to Firmin Richard.

Firmin Richard was a very distinguished composer, who had published
a number of successful pieces of all kinds and who liked nearly every
form of music and every sort of musician. Clearly, therefore, it was
the duty of every sort of musician to like M. Firmin Richard.
The only things to be said against him were that he was rather
masterful in his ways and endowed with a very hasty temper.

The first few days which the partners spent at the Opera were given
over to the delight of finding themselves the head of so magnificent
an enterprise; and they had forgotten all about that curious,
fantastic story of the ghost, when an incident occurred that
proved to them that the joke--if joke it were--was not over.
M. Firmin Richard reached his office that morning at eleven
o'clock. His secretary, M. Remy, showed him half a dozen letters
which he had not opened because they were marked "private."
One of the letters had at once attracted Richard's attention not
only because the envelope was addressed in red ink, but because he
seemed to have seen the writing before. He soon remembered that it
was the red handwriting in which the memorandum-book had been
so curiously completed. He recognized the clumsy childish hand.
He opened the letter and read:

DEAR MR. MANAGER:

I am sorry to have to trouble you at a time when you must be
so very busy, renewing important engagements, signing fresh ones
and generally displaying your excellent taste. I know what you
have done for Carlotta, Sorelli and little Jammes and for a few
others whose admirable qualities of talent or genius you have suspected.

Of course, when I use these words, I do not mean to apply them
to La Carlotta, who sings like a squirt and who ought never to
have been allowed to leave the Ambassadeurs and the Cafe Jacquin;
nor to La Sorelli, who owes her success mainly to the coach-builders;
nor to little Jammes, who dances like a calf in a field. And I am
not speaking of Christine Daae either, though her genius is certain,
whereas your jealousy prevents her from creating any important part.
When all is said, you are free to conduct your little business as you
think best, are you not?

All the same, I should like to take advantage of the fact that you
have not yet turned Christine Daae out of doors by hearing her
this evening in the part of Siebel, as that of Margarita has been
forbidden her since her triumph of the other evening; and I will
ask you not to dispose of my box to-day nor on the FOLLOWING DAYS,
for I can not end this letter without telling you how disagreeably
surprised I have been once or twice, to hear, on arriving at the Opera,
that my box had been sold, at the box-office, by your orders.

I did not protest, first, because I dislike scandal, and, second,
because I thought that your predecessors, MM. Debienne and Poligny,
who were always charming to me, had neglected, before leaving,
to mention my little fads to you. I have now received a reply
from those gentlemen to my letter asking for an explanation,
and this reply proves that you know all about my Memorandum-Book and,
consequently, that you are treating me with outrageous contempt.
IF YOU WISH TO LIVE IN PEACE, YOU MUST NOT BEGIN BY TAKING AWAY
MY PRIVATE BOX.

Believe me to be, dear Mr. Manager, without prejudice to these
little observations,
Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant,
OPERA GHOST.

The letter was accompanied by a cutting from the agony-column
of the Revue Theatrale, which ran:

O. G.--There is no excuse for R. and M. We told them and left
your memorandum-book in their hands. Kind regards.

M. Firmin Richard had hardly finished reading this letter when
M. Armand Moncharmin entered, carrying one exactly similar.
They looked at each other and burst out laughing.

"They are keeping up the joke," said M. Richard, "but I don't call
it funny."

"What does it all mean?" asked M. Moncharmin. "Do they imagine that,
because they have been managers of the Opera, we are going to let
them have a box for an indefinite period?"

"I am not in the mood to let myself be laughed at long,"
said Firmin Richard.

"It's harmless enough," observed Armand Moncharmin. "What is it
they really want? A box for to-night?"

M. Firmin Richard told his secretary to send Box Five on the grand
tier to Mm. Debienne and Poligny, if it was not sold. It was not.
It was sent off to them. Debienne lived at the corner of the Rue
Scribe and the Boulevard des Capucines; Poligny, in the Rue Auber.
O. Ghost's two letters had been posted at the Boulevard des
Capucines post-office, as Moncharmin remarked after examining
the envelopes.

"You see!" said Richard.

They shrugged their shoulders and regretted that two men of that age
should amuse themselves with such childish tricks.

"They might have been civil, for all that!" said Moncharmin.
"Did you notice how they treat us with regard to Carlotta,
Sorelli and Little Jammes?"

"Why, my dear fellow, these two are mad with jealousy! To think that
they went to the expense of, an advertisement in the Revue Theatrale!
Have they nothing better to do?"

"By the way," said Moncharmin, "they seem to be greatly interested
in that little Christine Daae!"

"You know as well as I do that she has the reputation of being
quite good," said Richard.

"Reputations are easily obtained," replied Moncharmin. "Haven't I
a reputation for knowing all about music? And I don't know one key
from another."

"Don't be afraid: you never had that reputation," Richard declared.

Thereupon he ordered the artists to be shown in, who, for the last
two hours, had been walking up and down outside the door behind
which fame and fortune--or dismissal--awaited them.

The whole day was spent in discussing, negotiating, signing or
cancelling contracts; and the two overworked managers went
to bed early, without so much as casting a glance at Box Five
to see whether M. Debienne and M. Poligny were enjoying the performance.

Next morning, the managers received a card of thanks from the ghost:

DEAR, MR. MANAGER:

Thanks. Charming evening. Daae exquisite. Choruses want waking up.
Carlotta a splendid commonplace instrument. Will write you soon
for the 240,000 francs, or 233,424 fr. 70 c., to be correct.
Mm. Debienne and Poligny have sent me the 6,575 fr. 30 c.
representing the first ten days of my allowance for the current year;
their privileges finished on the evening of the tenth inst.

Kind regards. O. G.

On the other hand, there was a letter from Mm. Debienne and Poligny:

GENTLEMEN:

We are much obliged for your kind thought of us, but you will
easily understand that the prospect of again hearing Faust,
pleasant though it is to ex-managers of the Opera, can not make us
forget that we have no right to occupy Box Five on the grand tier,
which is the exclusive property of HIM of whom we spoke to you when
we went through the memorandum-book with you for the last time.
See Clause 98, final paragraph.

Accept, gentlemen, etc.

"Oh, those fellows are beginning to annoy me!" shouted Firmin Richard,
snatching up the letter.

And that evening Box Five was sold.

The next morning, Mm. Richard and Moncharmin, on reaching their office,
found an inspector's report relating to an incident that had happened,
the night before, in Box Five. I give the essential part of the report:

I was obliged to call in a municipal guard twice, this evening,
to clear Box Five on the grand tier, once at the beginning and once
in the middle of the second act. The occupants, who arrived
as the curtain rose on the second act, created a regular scandal
by their laughter and their ridiculous observations. There
were cries of "Hush!" all around them and the whole house was
beginning to protest, when the box-keeper came to fetch me. I entered
the box and said what I thought necessary. The people did not seem
to me to be in their right mind; and they made stupid remarks.
I said that, if the noise was repeated, I should be compelled
to clear the box. The moment I left, I heard the laughing again,
with fresh protests from the house. I returned with a municipal
guard, who turned them out. They protested, still laughing,
saying they would not go unless they had their money back. At last,
they became quiet and I allowed them to enter the box again.
The laughter at once recommenced; and, this time, I had them turned
out definitely.

"Send for the inspector," said Richard to his secretary, who had
already read the report and marked it with blue pencil.

M. Remy, the secretary, had foreseen the order and called
the inspector at once.

"Tell us what happened," said Richard bluntly.

The inspector began to splutter and referred to the report.

"Well, but what were those people laughing at?" asked Moncharmin.

"They must have been dining, sir, and seemed more inclined to lark
about than to listen to good music. The moment they entered the box,
they came out again and called the box-keeper, who asked them what
they wanted. They said, `Look in the box: there's no one there,
is there?' `No,' said the woman. `Well,' said they, `when we went in,
we heard a voice saying THAT THE BOX WAS TAKEN!'"

M. Moncharmin could not help smiling as he looked at M. Richard;
but M. Richard did not smile. He himself had done too much in
that way in his time not to recognize, in the inspector's story,
all the marks of one of those practical jokes which begin
by amusing and end by enraging the victims. The inspector,
to curry favor with M. Moncharmin, who was smiling, thought it
best to give a smile too. A most unfortunate smile! M. Richard
glared at his subordinate, who thenceforth made it his business
to display a face of utter consternation.

"However, when the people arrived," roared Richard, "there was
no one in the box, was there?"

"Not a soul, sir, not a soul! Nor in the box on the right, nor in
the box on the left: not a soul, sir, I swear! The box-keeper
told it me often enough, which proves that it was all a joke."

"Oh, you agree, do you?" said Richard. "You agree! It's a joke!
And you think it funny, no doubt?"

"I think it in very bad taste, sir."

"And what did the box-keeper say?"

"Oh, she just said that it was the Opera ghost. That's all she said!"

And the inspector grinned. But he soon found that he had made
a mistake in grinning, for the words had no sooner left his mouth
than M. Richard, from gloomy, became furious.

"Send for the box-keeper!" he shouted. "Send for her! This minute!
This minute! And bring her in to me here! And turn all those
people out!"

The inspector tried to protest, but Richard closed his mouth
with an angry order to hold his tongue. Then, when the wretched
man's lips seemed shut for ever, the manager commanded him to open
them once more.

"Who is this `Opera ghost?'" he snarled.

But the inspector was by this time incapable of speaking a word.
He managed to convey, by a despairing gesture, that he knew nothing
about it, or rather that he did not wish to know.

"Have you ever seen him, have you seen the Opera ghost?"

The inspector, by means of a vigorous shake of the head, denied ever
having seen the ghost in question.

"Very well!" said M. Richard coldly.

The inspector's eyes started out of his head, as though to ask why
the manager had uttered that ominous "Very well!"

"Because I'm going to settle the account of any one who has not
seen him!" explained the manager. "As he seems to be everywhere,
I can't have people telling me that they see him nowhere.
I like people to work for me when I employ them!"

Having said this, M. Richard paid no attention to the inspector
and discussed various matters of business with his acting-manager,
who had entered the room meanwhile. The inspector thought he
could go and was gently--oh, so gently!--sidling toward the door,
when M. Richard nailed the man to the floor with a thundering:

"Stay where you are!"

M. Remy had sent for the box-keeper to the Rue de Provence,
close to the Opera, where she was engaged as a porteress.
She soon made her appearance.

"What's your name?"

"Mme. Giry. You know me well enough, sir; I'm the mother
of little Giry, little Meg, what!"

This was said in so rough and solemn a tone that, for a moment,
M. Richard was impressed. He looked at Mme. Giry, in her faded shawl,
her worn shoes, her old taffeta dress and dingy bonnet. It was quite
evident from the manager's attitude, that he either did not know
or could not remember having met Mme. Giry, nor even little Giry,
nor even "little Meg!" But Mme. Giry's pride was so great that
the celebrated box-keeper imagined that everybody knew her.

"Never heard of her!" the manager declared. "But that's no reason,
Mme. Giry, why I shouldn't ask you what happened last night to make
you and the inspector call in a municipal guard."

"I was just wanting to see you, sir, and talk to you about it,
so that you mightn't have the same unpleasantness as M. Debienne
and M. Poligny. They wouldn't listen to me either, at first."

"I'm not asking you about all that. I'm asking what happened
last night."

Mme. Giry turned purple with indignation. Never had she been
spoken to like that. She rose as though to go, gathering up
the folds of her skirt and waving the feathers of her dingy bonnet
with dignity, but, changing her mind, she sat down again and said,
in a haughty voice:

"I'll tell you what happened. The ghost was annoyed again!"

Thereupon, as M. Richard was on the point of bursting out, M. Moncharmin
interfered and conducted the interrogatory, whence it appeared
that Mme. Giry thought it quite natural that a voice should be heard
to say that a box was taken, when there was nobody in the box.
She was unable to explain this phenomenon, which was not new to her,
except by the intervention of the ghost. Nobody could see the ghost
in his box, but everybody could hear him. She had often heard him;
and they could believe her, for she always spoke the truth.
They could ask M. Debienne and M. Poligny, and anybody who knew her;
and also M. Isidore Saack, who had had a leg broken by the ghost!

"Indeed!" said Moncharmin, interrupting her. "Did the ghost break
poor Isidore Saack's leg?"

Mme. Giry opened her eyes with astonishment at such ignorance.
However, she consented to enlighten those two poor innocents.
The thing had happened in M. Debienne and M. Poligny's time, also in
Box Five and also during a performance of FAUST. Mme. Giry coughed,
cleared her throat--it sounded as though she were preparing to sing
the whole of Gounod's score--and began:

"It was like this, sir. That night, M. Maniera and his lady,
the jewelers in the Rue Mogador, were sitting in the front of the box,
with their great friend, M. Isidore Saack, sitting behind Mme. Maniera.
Mephistopheles was singing"--Mme. Giry here burst into song herself--"
`Catarina, while you play at sleeping,' and then M. Maniera heard
a voice in his right ear (his wife was on his left) saying, `Ha, ha!
Julie's not playing at sleeping!' His wife happened to be called
Julie. So. M. Maniera turns to the right to see who was talking
to him like that. Nobody there! He rubs his ear and asks himself,
if he's dreaming. Then Mephistopheles went on with his serenade.
... But, perhaps I'm boring you gentlemen?"

"No, no, go on."

"You are too good, gentlemen," with a smirk. "Well, then,
Mephistopheles went on with his serenade"--Mme. Giry, burst into
song again--" `Saint, unclose thy portals holy and accord the bliss,
to a mortal bending lowly, of a pardon-kiss.' And then M. Maniera
again hears the voice in his right ear, saying, this time, `Ha, ha!
Julie wouldn't mind according a kiss to Isidore!' Then he turns
round again, but, this time, to the left; and what do you think
he sees? Isidore, who had taken his lady's hand and was covering
it with kisses through the little round place in the glove--
like this, gentlemen"--rapturously kissing the bit of palm left bare
in the middle of her thread gloves. "Then they had a lively time
between them! Bang! Bang! M. Maniera, who was big and strong,
like you, M. Richard, gave two blows to M. Isidore Saack,
who was small and weak like M. Moncharmin, saving his presence.
There was a great uproar. People in the house shouted, `That will do!
Stop them! He'll kill him!' Then, at last, M. Isidore Saack managed
to run away."

"Then the ghost had not broken his leg?" asked M. Moncharmin,
a little vexed that his figure had made so little impression on
Mme. Giry.

"He did break it for him, sir," replied Mme. Giry haughtily.
"He broke it for him on the grand staircase, which he ran down
too fast, sir, and it will be long before the poor gentleman will
be able to go up it again!"

"Did the ghost tell you what he said in M. Maniera's right ear?"
asked M. Moncharmin, with a gravity which he thought exceedingly humorous.

"No, sir, it was M. Maniera himself. So----"

"But you have spoken to the ghost, my good lady?"

"As I'm speaking to you now, my good sir!" Mme. Giry replied.

"And, when the ghost speaks to you, what does he say?"

"Well, he tells me to bring him a footstool!"

This time, Richard burst out laughing, as did Moncharmin and Remy,
the secretary. Only the inspector, warned by experience, was careful
not to laugh, while Mme. Giry ventured to adopt an attitude that
was positively threatening.

"Instead of laughing," she cried indignantly, "you'd do better
to do as M. Poligny did, who found out for himself."

"Found out about what?" asked Moncharmin, who had never been so much
amused in his life.

"About the ghost, of course!...Look here..."

She suddenly calmed herself, feeling that this was a solemn moment
in her life:

"LOOK HERE," she repeated. "They were playing La Juive. M. Poligny
thought he would watch the performance from the ghost's box.
...Well, when Leopold cries, `Let us fly!'--you know--and Eleazer
stops them and says, `Whither go ye?'...well, M. Poligny--
I was watching him from the back of the next box, which was empty--
M. Poligny got up and walked out quite stiffly, like a statue,
and before I had time to ask him, `Whither go ye?' like Eleazer,
he was down the staircase, but without breaking his leg.

"Still, that doesn't let us know how the Opera ghost came to ask
you for a footstool," insisted M. Moncharmin.

"Well, from that evening, no one tried to take the ghost's private
box from him. The manager gave orders that he was to have it at
each performance. And, whenever he came, he asked me for a footstool."

"Tut, tut! A ghost asking for a footstool! Then this ghost
of yours is a woman?"

"No, the ghost is a man."

"How do you know?"

"He has a man's voice, oh, such a lovely man's voice! This is
what happens: When he comes to the opera, it's usually in the middle
of the first act. He gives three little taps on the door of Box Five.
The first time I heard those three taps, when I knew there was
no one in the box, you can think how puzzled I was! I opened
the door, listened, looked; nobody! And then I heard a voice say,
`Mme. Jules' my poor husband's name was Jules--`a footstool, please.'
Saving your presence, gentlemen, it made me feel all-overish like.
But the voice went on, `Don't be frightened, Mme. Jules, I'm the
Opera ghost!' And the voice was so soft and kind that I hardly
felt frightened. THE VOICE WAS SITTING IN THE CORNER CHAIR,
ON THE RIGHT, IN THE FRONT ROW."

"Was there any one in the box on the right of Box Five?"
asked Moncharmin.

"No; Box Seven, and Box Three, the one on the left, were both empty.
The curtain had only just gone up."

"And what did you do?"

"Well, I brought the footstool. Of course, it wasn't for himself
he wanted it, but for his lady! But I never heard her nor saw her."

"Eh? What? So now the ghost is married!" The eyes of the two
managers traveled from Mme. Giry to the inspector, who, standing behind
the box-keeper, was waving his arms to attract their attention.
He tapped his forehead with a distressful forefinger, to convey
his opinion that the widow Jules Giry was most certainly mad,
a piece of pantomime which confirmed M. Richard in his determination
to get rid of an inspector who kept a lunatic in his service.
Meanwhile, the worthy lady went on about her ghost, now painting
his generosity:

"At the end of the performance, he always gives me two francs,
sometimes five, sometimes even ten, when he has been many days
without coming. Only, since people have begun to annoy him again,
he gives me nothing at all.

"Excuse me, my good woman," said Moncharmin, while Mme. Giry tossed
the feathers in her dingy hat at this persistent familiarity,
"excuse me, how does the ghost manage to give you your two francs?"

"Why, he leaves them on the little shelf in the box, of course.
I find them with the program, which I always give him. Some evenings,
I find flowers in the box, a rose that must have dropped from his
lady's bodice...for he brings a lady with him sometimes; one day,
they left a fan behind them."

"Oh, the ghost left a fan, did he? And what did you do with it?"

"Well, I brought it back to the box next night."

Here the inspector's voice was raised.

"You've broken the rules; I shall have to fine you, Mme. Giry."

"Hold your tongue, you fool!" muttered M. Firmin Richard.

"You brought back the fan. And then?"

"Well, then, they took it away with them, sir; it was not there
at the end of the performance; and in its place they left me a box
of English sweets, which I'm very fond of. That's one of the ghost's
pretty thoughts."

"That will do, Mme. Giry. You can go."

When Mme. Giry had bowed herself out, with the dignity that never
deserted her, the manager told the inspector that they had decided
to dispense with that old madwoman's services; and, when he
had gone in his turn, they instructed the acting-manager to make
up the inspector's accounts. Left alone, the managers told
each other of the idea which they both had in mind, which was
that they should look into that little matter of Box Five themselves.

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