The Phantom of the Opera
Gaston Leroux

Part 5 out of 6

What the Persian knew of this torture-chamber and what there befell
him and his companion shall be told in his own words, as set down
in a manuscript which he left behind him, and which I copy VERBATIM.

Chapter XXI Interesting and Instructive Vicissitudes of a
Persian in the Cellars of the Opera


It was the first time that I entered the house on the lake.
I had often begged the "trap-door lover," as we used to call Erik
in my country, to open its mysterious doors to me. He always refused.
I made very many attempts, but in vain, to obtain admittance.
Watch him as I might, after I first learned that he had taken up
his permanent abode at the Opera, the darkness was always too thick
to enable me to see how he worked the door in the wall on the lake.
One day, when I thought myself alone, I stepped into the boat
and rowed toward that part of the wall through which I had seen
Erik disappear. It was then that I came into contact with the siren
who guarded the approach and whose charm was very nearly fatal
to me.

I had no sooner put off from the bank than the silence amid which I
floated on the water was disturbed by a sort of whispered singing
that hovered all around me. It was half breath, half music;
it rose softly from the waters of the lake; and I was surrounded by it
through I knew not what artifice. It followed me, moved with me
and was so soft that it did not alarm me. On the contrary, in my
longing to approach the source of that sweet and enticing harmony,
I leaned out of my little boat over the water, for there was no doubt
in my mind that the singing came from the water itself. By this time,
I was alone in the boat in the middle of the lake; the voice--
for it was now distinctly a voice--was beside me, on the water.
I leaned over, leaned still farther. The lake was perfectly calm,
and a moonbeam that passed through the air hole in the Rue Scribe
showed me absolutely nothing on its surface, which was smooth and
black as ink. I shook my ears to get rid of a possible humming;
but I soon had to accept the fact that there was no humming in
the ears so harmonious as the singing whisper that followed and now
attracted me.

Had I been inclined to superstition, I should have certainly thought
that I had to do with some siren whose business it was to confound
the traveler who should venture on the waters of the house on
the lake. Fortunately, I come from a country where we are too
fond of fantastic things not to know them through and through;
and I had no doubt but that I was face to face with some new
invention of Erik's. But this invention was so perfect that,
as I leaned out of the boat, I was impelled less by a desire
to discover its trick than to enjoy its charm; and I leaned out,
leaned out until I almost overturned the boat.

Suddenly, two monstrous arms issued from the bosom of the waters
and seized me by the neck, dragging me down to the depths
with irresistible force. I should certainly have been lost,
if I had not had time to give a cry by which Erik knew me.
For it was he; and, instead of drowning me, as was certainly
his first intention, he swam with me and laid me gently on the bank:

"How imprudent you are!" he said, as he stood before me, dripping with water.
"Why try to enter my house? I never invited you! I don't want you there,
nor anybody! Did you save my life only to make it unbearable to me?
However great the service you rendered him, Erik may end by forgetting
it; and you know that nothing can restrain Erik, not even Erik himself."

He spoke, but I had now no other wish than to know what I already
called the trick of the siren. He satisfied my curiosity, for Erik,
who is a real monster--I have seen him at work in Persia, alas--is also,
in certain respects, a regular child, vain and self-conceited,
and there is nothing he loves so much, after astonishing people,
as to prove all the really miraculous ingenuity of his mind.

He laughed and showed me a long reed.

"It's the silliest trick you ever saw," he said, "but it's very useful for
breathing and singing in the water. I learned it from the Tonkin pirates,
who are able to remain hidden for hours in the beds of the rivers."[8]

[8] An official report from Tonkin, received in Paris at the end
of July, 1909, relates how the famous pirate chief De Tham
was tracked, together with his men, by our soldiers; and how
all of them succeeded in escaping, thanks to this trick of the reeds.

I spoke to him severely.

"It's a trick that nearly killed me!" I said. "And it may have
been fatal to others! You know what you promised me, Erik?
No more murders!"

"Have I really committed murders?" he asked, putting on his most
amiable air.

"Wretched man!" I cried. "Have you forgotten the rosy hours
of Mazenderan?"

"Yes," he replied, in a sadder tone, "I prefer to forget them.
I used to make the little sultana laugh, though!"

"All that belongs to the past," I declared; "but there is the present
... and you are responsible to me for the present, because,
if I had wished, there would have been none at all for you.
Remember that, Erik: I saved your life!"

And I took advantage of the turn of conversation to speak to him
of something that had long been on my mind:

"Erik," I asked, "Erik, swear that..."

"What?" he retorted. "You know I never keep my oaths. Oaths are
made to catch gulls with."

"Tell can tell me, at any rate. ..."


"Well, the chandelier...the chandelier, Erik?..."

"What about the chandelier?"

"You know what I mean."

"Oh," he sniggered, "I don't mind telling you about the chandelier!
...IT WASN'T I!...The chandelier was very old and worn."

When Erik laughed, he was more terrible than ever. He jumped into
the boat, chuckling so horribly that I could not help trembling.

"Very old and worn, my dear daroga![9] Very old and worn,
the chandelier!...It fell of itself!...It came down
with a smash!...And now, daroga, take my advice and go
and dry yourself, or you'll catch a cold in the head!...
And never get into my boat again....And, whatever you do,
don't try to enter my house: I'm not always there...daroga!
And I should be sorry to have to dedicate my Requiem Mass to you!"

[9] DAROGA is Persian for chief of police.

So saying, swinging to and fro, like a monkey, and still chuckling,
he pushed off and soon disappeared in the darkness of the lake.

From that day, I gave up all thought of penetrating into his
house by the lake. That entrance was obviously too well guarded,
especially since he had learned that I knew about it. But I felt
that there must be another entrance, for I had often seen Erik
disappear in the third cellar, when I was watching him, though I
could not imagine how.

Ever since I had discovered Erik installed in the Opera, I lived
in a perpetual terror of his horrible fancies, not in so far as I
was concerned, but I dreaded everything for others.[10]

[10] The Persian might easily have admitted that Erik's fate also
interested himself, for he was well aware that, if the government
of Teheran had learned that Erik was still alive, it would have
been all up with the modest pension of the erstwhile daroga.
It is only fair, however, to add that the Persian had a noble and
generous heart; and I do not doubt for a moment that the catastrophes
which he feared for others greatly occupied his mind. His conduct,
throughout this business, proves it and is above all praise.

And whenever some accident, some fatal event happened, I always
thought to myself, "I should not be surprised if that were Erik,"
even as others used to say, "It's the ghost!" How often have I
not heard people utter that phrase with a smile! Poor devils!
If they had known that the ghost existed in the flesh, I swear they
would not have laughed!

Although Erik announced to me very solemnly that he had changed
and that he had become the most virtuous of men SINCE HE WAS LOVED
FOR HIMSELF--a sentence that, at first, perplexed me most terribly--
I could not help shuddering when I thought of the monster.
His horrible, unparalleled and repulsive ugliness put him without
the pale of humanity; and it often seemed to me that, for this reason,
he no longer believed that he had any duty toward the human race.
The way in which he spoke of his love affairs only increased my alarm,
for I foresaw the cause of fresh and more hideous tragedies in this
event to which he alluded so boastfully.

On the other hand, I soon discovered the curious moral traffic
established between the monster and Christine Daae. Hiding in
the lumber-room next to the young prima donna's dressing-room,
I listened to wonderful musical displays that evidently flung Christine
into marvelous ecstasy; but, all the same, I would never have thought
that Erik's voice--which was loud as thunder or soft as angels' voices,
at will--could have made her forget his ugliness. I understood all when
I learned that Christine had not yet seen him! I had occasion to go
to the dressing-room and, remembering the lessons he had once
given me, I had no difficulty in discovering the trick that made
the wall with the mirror swing round and I ascertained the means
of hollow bricks and so on--by which he made his voice carry
to Christine as though she heard it close beside her. In this way
also I discovered the road that led to the well and the dungeon--
the Communists' dungeon--and also the trap-door that enabled Erik
to go straight to the cellars below the stage.

A few days later, what was not my amazement to learn by my own eyes
and ears that Erik and Christine Daae saw each other and to catch
the monster stooping over the little well, in the Communists'
road and sprinkling the forehead of Christine Daae, who had fainted.
A white horse, the horse out of the PROFETA, which had disappeared
from the stables under the Opera, was standing quietly beside them.
I showed myself. It was terrible. I saw sparks fly from those yellow
eyes and, before I had time to say a word, I received a blow on
the head that stunned me.

When I came to myself, Erik, Christine and the white horse had disappeared.
I felt sure that the poor girl was a prisoner in the house on
the lake. Without hesitation, I resolved to return to the bank,
notwithstanding the attendant danger. For twenty-four hours, I lay
in wait for the monster to appear; for I felt that he must go out,
driven by the need of obtaining provisions. And, in this connection,
I may say, that, when he went out in the streets or ventured to show
himself in public, he wore a pasteboard nose, with a mustache
attached to it, instead of his own horrible hole of a nose.
This did not quite take away his corpse-like air, but it made
him almost, I say almost, endurable to look at.

I therefore watched on the bank of the lake and, weary of long waiting,
was beginning to think that he had gone through the other door,
the door in the third cellar, when I heard a slight splashing in
the dark, I saw the two yellow eyes shining like candles and soon
the boat touched shore. Erik jumped out and walked up to me:

"You've been here for twenty-four hours," he said, "and you're
annoying me. I tell you, all this will end very badly. And you
will have brought it upon yourself; for I have been extraordinarily
patient with you. You think you are following me, you great booby,
whereas it's I who am following you; and I know all that you know
about me, here. I spared you yesterday, in MY COMMUNISTS' ROAD;
but I warn you, seriously, don't let me catch you there again!
Upon my word, you don't seem able to take a hint!"

He was so furious that I did not think, for the moment,
of interrupting him. After puffing and blowing like a walrus,
he put his horrible thought into words:

"Yes, you must learn, once and for all--once and for all, I say--
to take a hint! I tell you that, with your recklessness--for you
have already been twice arrested by the shade in the felt hat,
who did not know what you were doing in the cellars and took you to
the managers, who looked upon you as an eccentric Persian interested
in stage mechanism and life behind the scenes: I know all about it,
I was there, in the office; you know I am everywhere--well, I tell
you that, with your recklessness, they will end by wondering what
you are after here...and they will end by knowing that you
are after Erik...and then they will be after Erik themselves
and they will discover the house on the lake....If they do,
it will be a bad lookout for you, old chap, a bad lookout!...
I won't answer for anything."

Again he puffed and blew like a walrus.

"I won't answer for anything!...If Erik's secrets cease to be
OF THE HUMAN RACE! That's all I have to tell you, and unless you
are a great booby, it ought to be enough for you...except
that you don't know how to take a hint."

He had sat down on the stern of his boat and was kicking his
heels against the planks, waiting to hear what I had to answer.
I simply said:

"It's not Erik that I'm after here!"

"Who then?"

"You know as well as I do: it's Christine Daae," I answered.

He retorted: "I have every right to see her in my own house.
I am loved for my own sake."

"That's not true," I said. "You have carried her off and are
keeping her locked up."

"Listen," he said. "Will you promise never to meddle with my
affairs again, if I prove to you that I am loved for my own sake?"

"Yes, I promise you," I replied, without hesitation, for I felt
convinced that for such a monster the proof was impossible.

"Well, then, it's quite simple....Christine Daae shall leave
this as she pleases and come back again!...Yes, come back again,
because she wishes...come back of herself, because she loves me
for myself!..."

"Oh, I doubt if she will come back!...But it is your duty to let
her go." "My duty, you great booby!...It is my wish...
my wish to let her go; and she will come back again...for she
loves me!...All this will end in a marriage...a marriage
at the Madeleine, you great booby! Do you believe me now?
When I tell you that my nuptial mass is written...wait till
you hear the KYRIE. ..."

He beat time with his heels on the planks of the boat and sang:

"KYRIE!...KYRIE!...KYRIE ELEISON!...Wait till you hear,
wait till you hear that mass."

"Look here," I said. "I shall believe you if I see Christine Daae
come out of the house on the lake and go back to it of her own accord."

"And you won't meddle any more in my affairs?"


"Very well, you shall see that to-night. Come to the masked ball.
Christine and I will go and have a look round. Then you can hide
in the lumber-room and you shall see Christine, who will have gone
to her dressing-room, delighted to come back by the Communists' road.
...And, now, be off, for I must go and do some shopping!"

To my intense astonishment, things happened as he had announced.
Christine Daae left the house on the lake and returned to it
several times, without, apparently, being forced to do so. It was
very difficult for me to clear my mind of Erik. However, I resolved
to be extremely prudent, and did not make the mistake of returning
to the shore of the lake, or of going by the Communists' road.
But the idea of the secret entrance in the third cellar haunted me,
and I repeatedly went and waited for hours behind a scene from the Roi
de Lahore, which had been left there for some reason or other.
At last my patience was rewarded. One day, I saw the monster come
toward me, on his knees. I was certain that he could not see me.
He passed between the scene behind which I stood and a set piece,
went to the wall and pressed on a spring that moved a stone and
afforded him an ingress. He passed through this, and the stone closed
behind him.

I waited for at least thirty minutes and then pressed the spring
in my turn. Everything happened as with Erik. But I was careful
not to go through the hole myself, for I knew that Erik was inside.
On the other hand, the idea that I might be caught by Erik suddenly
made me think of the death of Joseph Buquet. I did not wish
to jeopardize the advantages of so great a discovery which might
be useful to many people, "to a goodly number of the human race,"
in Erik's words; and I left the cellars of the Opera after carefully
replacing the stone.

I continued to be greatly interested in the relations between Erik
and Christine Daae, not from any morbid curiosity, but because of
the terrible thought which obsessed my mind that Erik was capable
of anything, if he once discovered that he was not loved for his
own sake, as he imagined. I continued to wander, very cautiously,
about the Opera and soon learned the truth about the monster's
dreary love-affair.

He filled Christine's mind, through the terror with which he
inspired her, but the dear child's heart belonged wholly to the
Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. While they played about, like an innocent
engaged couple, on the upper floors of the Opera, to avoid the monster,
they little suspected that some one was watching over them.
I was prepared to do anything: to kill the monster, if necessary,
and explain to the police afterward. But Erik did not show himself;
and I felt none the more comfortable for that.

I must explain my whole plan. I thought that the monster,
being driven from his house by jealousy, would thus enable me to
enter it, without danger, through the passage in the third cellar.
It was important, for everybody's sake, that I should know exactly
what was inside. One day, tired of waiting for an opportunity,
I moved the stone and at once heard an astounding music:
the monster was working at his Don Juan Triumphant, with every door
in his house wide open. I knew that this was the work of his life.
I was careful not to stir and remained prudently in my dark hole.

He stopped playing, for a moment, and began walking about his place,
like a madman. And he said aloud, at the top of his voice:

"It must be finished FIRST! Quite finished!"

This speech was not calculated to reassure me and, when the
music recommenced, I closed the stone very softly.

On the day of the abduction of Christine Daae, I did not come
to the theater until rather late in the evening, trembling lest I
should hear bad news. I had spent a horrible day, for, after reading
in a morning paper the announcement of a forthcoming marriage
between Christine and the Vicomte de Chagny, I wondered whether,
after all, I should not do better to denounce the monster.
But reason returned to me, and I was persuaded that this action
could only precipitate a possible catastrophe.

When, my cab set me down before the Opera, I was really almost
astonished to see it still standing! But I am something of a fatalist,
like all good Orientals, and I entered ready, for anything.

Christine Daae's abduction in the Prison Act, which naturally
surprised everybody, found me prepared. I was quite certain
that she had been juggled away by Erik, that prince of conjurers.
And I thought positively that this was the end of Christine and perhaps
of everybody, so much so that I thought of advising all these people
who were staying on at the theater to make good their escape.
I felt, however, that they would be sure to look upon me as mad
and I refrained.

On the other hand, I resolved to act without further delay,
as far as I was concerned. The chances were in my favor that Erik,
at that moment, was thinking only of his captive. This was the
moment to enter his house through the third cellar; and I resolved
to take with me that poor little desperate viscount, who, at the
first suggestion, accepted, with an amount of confidence in myself
that touched me profoundly. I had sent my servant for my pistols.
I gave one to the viscount and advised him to hold himself ready
to fire, for, after all, Erik might be waiting for us behind the wall.
We were to go by the Communists' road and through the trap-door.

Seeing my pistols, the little viscount asked me if we were going
to fight a duel. I said:

"Yes; and what a duel!" But, of course, I had no time to explain
anything to him. The little viscount is a brave fellow, but he
knew hardly anything about his adversary; and it was so much
the better. My great fear was that he was already somewhere near us,
preparing the Punjab lasso. No one knows better than he how to throw
the Punjab lasso, for he is the king of stranglers even as he is
the prince of conjurors. When he had finished making the little
sultana laugh, at the time of the "rosy hours of Mazenderan,"
she herself used to ask him to amuse her by giving her a thrill.
It was then that he introduced the sport of the Punjab lasso.

He had lived in India and acquired an incredible skill in the art
of strangulation. He would make them lock him into a courtyard
to which they brought a warrior--usually, a man condemned to death--
armed with a long pike and broadsword. Erik had only his lasso;
and it was always just when the warrior thought that he was going
to fell Erik with a tremendous blow that we heard the lasso whistle
through the air. With a turn of the wrist, Erik tightened the noose
round his adversary's neck and, in this fashion, dragged him before
the little sultana and her women, who sat looking from a window
and applauding. The little sultana herself learned to wield the Punjab
lasso and killed several of her women and even of the friends who
visited her. But I prefer to drop this terrible subject of the rosy
hours of Mazenderan. I have mentioned it only to explain why,
on arriving with the Vicomte de Chagny in the cellars of the Opera,
I was bound to protect my companion against the ever-threatening
danger of death by strangling. My pistols could serve no purpose,
for Erik was not likely to show himself; but Erik could always
strangle us. I had no time to explain all this to the viscount;
besides, there was nothing to be gained by complicating the position.
I simply told M. de Chagny to keep his hand at the level of his eyes,
with the arm bent, as though waiting for the command to fire.
With his victim in this attitude, it is impossible even for
the most expert strangler to throw the lasso with advantage.
It catches you not only round the neck, but also round the arm
or hand. This enables you easily to unloose the lasso, which then
becomes harmless.

After avoiding the commissary of police, a number of door-shutters
and the firemen, after meeting the rat-catcher and passing the man
in the felt hat unperceived, the viscount and I arrived without
obstacle in the third cellar, between the set piece and the scene
from the Roi de Lahore. I worked the stone, and we jumped
into the house which Erik had built himself in the double case
of the foundation-walls of the Opera. And this was the easiest
thing in the world for him to do, because Erik was one of the chief
contractors under Philippe Garnier, the architect of the Opera,
and continued to work by himself when the works were officially
suspended, during the war, the siege of Paris and the Commune.

I knew my Erik too well to feel at all comfortable on jumping into
his house. I knew what he had made of a certain palace at Mazenderan.
From being the most honest building conceivable, he soon turned it
into a house of the very devil, where you could not utter a word
but it was overheard or repeated by an echo. With his trap-doors
the monster was responsible for endless tragedies of all kinds.
He hit upon astonishing inventions. Of these, the most curious,
horrible and dangerous was the so-called torture-chamber. Except
in special cases, when the little sultana amused herself by inflicting
suffering upon some unoffending citizen, no one was let into it
but wretches condemned to death. And, even then, when these had
"had enough," they were always at liberty to put an end to themselves
with a Punjab lasso or bowstring, left for their use at the foot
of an iron tree.

My alarm, therefore, was great when I saw that the room into
which M. le Vicomte de Chagny and I had dropped was an exact
copy of the torture-chamber of the rosy hours of Mazenderan.
At our feet, I found the Punjab lasso which I had been dreading
all the evening. I was convinced that this rope had already done
duty for Joseph Buquet, who, like myself, must have caught Erik one
evening working the stone in the third cellar. He probably tried it
in his turn, fell into the torture-chamber and only left it hanged.
I can well imagine Erik dragging the body, in order to get rid of it,
to the scene from the Roi de Lahore, and hanging it there as an example,
or to increase the superstitious terror that was to help him
in guarding the approaches to his lair! Then, upon reflection,
Erik went back to fetch the Punjab lasso, which is very curiously
made out of catgut, and which might have set an examining
magistrate thinking. This explains the disappearance of the rope.

And now I discovered the lasso, at our feet, in the torture-chamber!
... I am no coward, but a cold sweat covered my forehead as I
moved the little red disk of my lantern over the walls.

M. de Chagny noticed it and asked:

"What is the matter, sir?"

I made him a violent sign to be silent.

Chapter XXII In the Torture Chamber


We were in the middle of a little six-cornered room, the sides
of which were covered with mirrors from top to bottom.
In the corners, we could clearly see the "joins" in the glasses,
the segments intended to turn on their gear; yes, I recognized
them and I recognized the iron tree in the corner, at the bottom
of one of those segments...the iron tree, with its iron branch,
for the hanged men.

I seized my companion's arm: the Vicomte de Chagny was all a-quiver,
eager to shout to his betrothed that he was bringing her help.
I feared that he would not be able to contain himself.

Suddenly, we heard a noise on our left. It sounded at first
like a door opening and shutting in the next room; and then there
was a dull moan. I clutched M. de Chagny's arm more firmly still;
and then we distinctly heard these words:

"You must make your choice! The wedding mass or the requiem mass!"
I recognized the voice of the monster.

There was another moan, followed by a long silence.

I was persuaded by now that the monster was unaware of our presence
in his house, for otherwise he would certainly have managed not
to let us hear him. He would only have had to close the little
invisible window through which the torture-lovers look down into
the torture-chamber. Besides, I was certain that, if he had known
of our presence, the tortures would have begun at once.

The important thing was not to let him know; and I dreaded
nothing so much as the impulsiveness of the Vicomte de Chagny,
who wanted to rush through the walls to Christine Daae, whose moans
we continued to hear at intervals.

"The requiem mass is not at all gay," Erik's voice resumed,
"whereas the wedding mass--you can take my word for it--is magnificent!
You must take a resolution and know your own mind! I can't go
on living like this, like a mole in a burrow! Don Juan Triumphant
is finished; and now I want to live like everybody else. I want
to have a wife like everybody else and to take her out on Sundays.
I have invented a mask that makes me look like anybody. People will not
even turn round in the streets. You will be the happiest of women.
And we will sing, all by ourselves, till we swoon away with delight.
You are crying! You are afraid of me! And yet I am not really wicked.
Love me and you shall see! All I wanted was to be loved for myself.
If you loved me I should be as gentle as a lamb; and you could do
anything with me that you pleased."

Soon the moans that accompanied this sort of love's litany increased
and increased. I have never heard anything more despairing;
and M. de Chagny and I recognized that this terrible lamentation came
from Erik himself. Christine seemed to be standing dumb with horror,
without the strength to cry out, while the monster was on his knees
before her.

Three times over, Erik fiercely bewailed his fate:

"You don't love me! You don't love me! You don't love me!"

And then, more gently:

"Why do you cry? You know it gives me pain to see you cry!"

A silence.

Each silence gave us fresh hope. We said to ourselves:

"Perhaps he has left Christine behind the wall."

And we thought only of the possibility of warning Christine Daae
of our presence, unknown to the monster. We were unable to leave
the torture-chamber now, unless Christine opened the door to us;
and it was only on this condition that we could hope to help her,
for we did not even know where the door might be.

Suddenly, the silence in the next room was disturbed by the ringing
of an electric bell. There was a bound on the other side of the wall
and Erik's voice of thunder:

"Somebody ringing! Walk in, please!"

A sinister chuckle.

"Who has come bothering now? Wait for me here....I AM GOING

Steps moved away, a door closed. I had no time to think of the fresh
horror that was preparing; I forgot that the monster was only going
out perhaps to perpetrate a fresh crime; I understood but one thing:
Christine was alone behind the wall!

The Vicomte de Chagny was already calling to her:

"Christine! Christine!"

As we could hear what was said in the next room, there was
no reason why my companion should not be heard in his turn.
Nevertheless, the viscount had to repeat his cry time after time.

At last, a faint voice reached us.

"I am dreaming!" it said.

"Christine, Christine, it is I, Raoul!"

A silence.

"But answer me, Christine!...In Heaven's name, if you are alone,
answer me!"

Then Christine's voice whispered Raoul's name.

"Yes! Yes! It is I! It is not a dream!...Christine,
trust me!...We are here to save you...but be prudent!
When you hear the monster, warn us!"

Then Christine gave way to fear. She trembled lest Erik should
discover where Raoul was hidden; she told us in a few hurried words
that Erik had gone quite mad with love and that he had decided TO
to become his wife. He had given her till eleven o'clock the next
evening for reflection. It was the last respite. She must choose,
as he said, between the wedding mass and the requiem.

And Erik had then uttered a phrase which Christine did not
quite understand:

"Yes or no! If your answer is no, everybody will be dead AND BURIED!"

But I understood the sentence perfectly, for it corresponded
in a terrible manner with my own dreadful thought.

"Can you tell us where Erik is?" I asked.

She replied that he must have left the house.

"Could you make sure?"

"No. I am fastened. I can not stir a limb."

When we heard this, M. de Chagny and I gave a yell of fury.
Our safety, the safety of all three of us, depended on the girl's
liberty of movement.

"But where are you?" asked Christine. "There are only two doors
in my room, the Louis-Philippe room of which I told you, Raoul; a door
through which Erik comes and goes, and another which he has never
opened before me and which he has forbidden me ever to go through,
because he says it is the most dangerous of the doors, the door
of the torture-chamber!"

"Christine, that is where we are!"

"You are in the torture-chamber?"

"Yes, but we can not see the door."

"Oh, if I could only drag myself so far! I would knock at the door
and that would tell you where it is."

"Is it a door with a lock to it?" I asked.

"Yes, with a lock."

"Mademoiselle," I said, "it is absolutely necessary, that you
should open that door to us!"

"But how?" asked the poor girl tearfully.

We heard her straining, trying to free herself from the bonds
that held her.

"I know where the key is," she said, in a voice that seemed exhausted
by the effort she had made. "But I am fastened so tight....Oh,
the wretch!"

And she gave a sob.

"Where is the key?" I asked, signing to M. de Chagny not to speak
and to leave the business to me, for we had not a moment to lose.

"In the next room, near the organ, with another little bronze key,
which he also forbade me to touch. They are both in a little
leather bag which he calls the bag of life and death.
... Raoul! Raoul! Fly! Everything is mysterious and
terrible here, and Erik will soon have gone quite mad, and you
are in the torture-chamber!...Go back by the way you came.
There must be a reason why the room is called by that name!"

"Christine," said the young man. "we will go from here together
or die together!"

"We must keep cool," I whispered. "Why has he fastened you,
mademoiselle? You can't escape from his house; and he knows it!"

"I tried to commit suicide! The monster went out last night,
after carrying me here fainting and half chloroformed. He was
going TO HIS BANKER, so he said!...When he returned he found
me with my face covered with blood....I had tried to kill
myself by striking my forehead against the walls."

"Christine!" groaned Raoul; and he began to sob.

"Then he bound me....I am not allowed to die until eleven
o'clock to-morrow evening."

"Mademoiselle," I declared, "the monster bound you...and he
shall unbind you. You have only to play the necessary part!
Remember that he loves you!"

"Alas!" we heard. "Am I likely to forget it!"

"Remember it and smile to him...entreat him...tell him
that your bonds hurt you."

But Christine Daae said:

"Hush!...I hear something in the wall on the lake!...It
is he!...Go away! Go away! Go away!"

"We could not go away, even if we wanted to," I said, as impressively
as I could. "We can not leave this! And we are in the torture-chamber!"

"Hush!" whispered Christine again.

Heavy steps sounded slowly behind the wall, then stopped and made
the floor creak once more. Next came a tremendous sigh, followed by
a cry of horror from Christine, and we heard Erik's voice:

"I beg your pardon for letting you see a face like this!
What a state I am in, am I not? It's THE OTHER ONE'S FAULT!
Why did he ring? Do I ask people who pass to tell me the time?
He will never ask anybody the time again! It is the siren's fault."

{two page color illustration}

Another sigh, deeper, more tremendous still, came from the abysmal
depths of a soul.

"Why did you cry out, Christine?"

"Because I am in pain, Erik."

"I thought I had frightened you."

"Erik, unloose my bonds....Am I not your prisoner?"

"You will try to kill yourself again."

"You have given me till eleven o'clock to-morrow evening, Erik."

The footsteps dragged along the floor again.

"After all, as we are to die together...and I am just as eager
as you...yes, I have had enough of this life, you know.
...Wait, don't move, I will release you....You have only
one word to say: `NO!' And it will at once be over WITH EVERYBODY!
...You are right, you are right; why wait till eleven o'clock
to-morrow evening? True, it would have been grander, finer....But
that is childish nonsense....We should only think of ourselves
in this life, of our own death...the rest doesn't matter.
my dear, it's raining cats and dogs outside!...Apart from that,
Christine, I think I am subject to hallucinations....You know,
the man who rang at the siren's door just now--go and look if he's
ringing at the bottom of the lake-well, he was rather like.
...There, turn round...are you glad? You're free now.
...Oh, my poor Christine, look at your wrists: tell me, have I
hurt them?...That alone deserves death....Talking of death,

Hearing these terrible remarks, I received an awful presentiment
...I too had once rung at the monster's door...and,
without knowing it, must have set some warning current in motion.

And I remembered the two arms that had emerged from the inky waters.
...What poor wretch had strayed to that shore this time?
Who was `the other one,' the one whose requiem we now heard sung?

Erik sang like the god of thunder, sang a DIES IRAE that enveloped
us as in a storm. The elements seemed to rage around us.
Suddenly, the organ and the voice ceased so suddenly that M. de
Chagny sprang back, on the other side of the wall, with emotion.
And the voice, changed and transformed, distinctly grated
out these metallic syllables: "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY BAG?"

Chapter XXIII The Tortures Begin


The voice repeated angrily: "What have you done with my bag?
So it was to take my bag that you asked me to release you!"

We heard hurried steps, Christine running back to the Louis-Philippe
room, as though to seek shelter on the other side of our wall.

"What are you running away for?" asked the furious voice,
which had followed her. "Give me back my bag, will you?
Don't you know that it is the bag of life and death?"

"Listen to me, Erik," sighed the girl. "As it is settled that we
are to live together...what difference can it make to you?"

"You know there are only two keys in it," said the monster.
"What do you want to do?"

"I want to look at this room which I have never seen and which you
have always kept from me....It's woman's curiosity!" she said,
in a tone which she tried to render playful.

But the trick was too childish for Erik to be taken in by it.

"I don't like curious women," he retorted, "and you had better
remember the story of BLUE-BEARD and be careful....Come, give me
back my bag!...Give me back my bag!...Leave the key alone,
will you, you inquisitive little thing?"

And he chuckled, while Christine gave a cry of pain. Erik had
evidently recovered the bag from her.

At that moment, the viscount could not help uttering an exclamation
of impotent rage.

"Why, what's that?" said the monster. "Did you hear, Christine?"

"No, no," replied the poor girl. "I heard nothing."

"I thought I heard a cry."

"A cry! Are you going mad, Erik? Whom do you expect to give a cry,
in this house?...I cried out, because you hurt me! I heard nothing."

"I don't like the way you said that!...You're trembling.
... You're quite excited....You're lying!...That was a cry,
there was a cry!...There is some one in the torture-chamber!...
Ah, I understand now!"

"There is no one there, Erik!"

"I understand!"

"No one!"

"The man you want to marry, perhaps!"

"I don't want to marry anybody, you know I don't."

Another nasty chuckle. "Well, it won't take long to find out.
Christine, my love, we need not open the door to see what is happening
in the torture-chamber. Would you like to see? Would you like
to see? Look here! If there is some one, if there is really some
one there, you will see the invisible window light up at the top,
near the ceiling. We need only draw the black curtain and put out
the light in here. There, that's it....Let's put out the light!
You're not afraid of the dark, when you're with your little husband!"

Then we heard Christine's voice of anguish:

"No!...I'm frightened!...I tell you, I'm afraid of the dark!...
I don't care about that room now....You're always frightening me,
like a child, with your torture-chamber!...And so I became inquisitive.
...But I don't care about it now...not a bit...not a bit!"

And that which I feared above all things began, AUTOMATICALLY.
We were suddenly flooded with light! Yes, on our side of the wall,
everything seemed aglow. The Vicomte de Chagny was so much taken
aback that he staggered. And the angry voice roared:

"I told you there was some one! Do you see the window now?
The lighted window, right up there? The man behind the wall can't
see it! But you shall go up the folding steps: that is what they
are there for!...You have often asked me to tell you; and now you
know!...They are there to give a peep into the torture-chamber inquisitive little thing!"

"What tortures?...Who is being tortured?...Erik, Erik, say you
are only trying to frighten me!...Say it, if you love me,
Erik!...There are no tortures, are there?"

"Go and look at the little window, dear!"

I do not know if the viscount heard the girl's swooning voice,
for he was too much occupied by the astounding spectacle that now
appeared before his distracted gaze. As for me, I had seen that sight
too often, through the little window, at the time of the rosy hours
of Mazenderan; and I cared only for what was being said next door,
seeking for a hint how to act, what resolution to take.

"Go and peep through the little window! Tell me what he looks like!"

We heard the steps being dragged against the wall.

"Up with you!...No!...No, I will go up myself, dear!"

"Oh, very well, I will go up. Let me go!"

"Oh, my darling, my darling!...How sweet of you!...How nice
of you to save me the exertion at my age!...Tell me what he
looks like!"

At that moment, we distinctly heard these words above our heads:

"There is no one there, dear!"

"No one?...Are you sure there is no one?"

"Why, of course one!"

"Well, that's all right!...What's the matter, Christine?
You're not going to faint, are there is no one there?...
Here...come down...there!...Pull yourself there
is no one there!...BUT HOW DO YOU LIKE THE LANDSCAPE?"

"Oh, very much!"

"There, that's better!...You're better now, are you not?...
That's all right, you're better!...No excitement!...And
what a funny house, isn't it, with landscapes like that in it?"

"Yes, it's like the Musee Grevin....But, say, Erik...there
are no tortures in there!...What a fright you gave me!"

" there is no one there?"

"Did you design that room? It's very handsome. You're a
great artist, Erik."

"Yes, a great artist, in my own line."

"But tell me, Erik, why did you call that room the torture-chamber?"

"Oh, it's very simple. First of all, what did you see?"

"I saw a forest."

"And what is in a forest?"


"And what is in a tree?"


"Did you see any birds?"

"No, I did not see any birds."

"Well, what did you see? Think! You saw branches And what are
the branches?" asked the terrible voice. "THERE'S A GIBBET!
That is why I call my wood the torture-chamber!...You see,
it's all a joke. I never express myself like other people.
But I am very tired of it!...I'm sick and tired of having a forest
and a torture-chamber in my house and of living like a mountebank,
in a house with a false bottom!...I'm tired of it! I want to
have a nice, quiet flat, with ordinary doors and windows and a wife
inside it, like anybody else! A wife whom I could love and take
out on Sundays and keep amused on week-days...Here, shall I show
you some card-tricks? That will help us to pass a few minutes,
while waiting for eleven o'clock to-morrow evening....My dear little
Christine!...Are you listening to me?...Tell me you love me!...
No, you don't love me...but no matter, you will!...Once,
you could not look at my mask because you knew what was behind.
...And now you don't mind looking at it and you forget what is
behind!...One can get used to everything...if one wishes.
...Plenty of young people who did not care for each other
before marriage have adored each other since! Oh, I don't know
what I am talking about! But you would have lots of fun with me.
For instance, I am the greatest ventriloquist that ever lived, I am
the first ventriloquist in the world!...You're laughing....
Perhaps you don't believe me? Listen."

The wretch, who really was the first ventriloquist in the world,
was only trying to divert the child's attention from the torture-chamber;
but it was a stupid scheme, for Christine thought of nothing but us!
She repeatedly besought him, in the gentlest tones which she
could assume:

"Put out the light in the little window!...Erik, do put out
the light in the little window!"

For she saw that this light, which appeared so suddenly and of
which the monster had spoken in so threatening a voice, must mean
something terrible. One thing must have pacified her for a moment;
and that was seeing the two of us, behind the wall, in the midst
of that resplendent light, alive and well. But she would certainly
have felt much easier if the light had been put out.

Meantime, the other had already begun to play the ventriloquist.
He said:

"Here, I raise my mask a little....Oh, only a little!...
You see my lips, such lips as I have? They're not moving!...My
mouth is closed--such mouth as I have--and yet you hear my voice.
...Where will you have it? In your left ear? In your right ear?
In the table? In those little ebony boxes on the mantelpiece?...
Listen, dear, it's in the little box on the right of the mantelpiece:
what does it say? `SHALL I TURN THE SCORPION?'...And now, crack!
What does it say in the little box on the left? `SHALL I TURN
THE GRASSHOPPER?'...And now, crack! Here it is in the little
leather bag....What does it say? `I AM THE LITTLE BAG OF LIFE
AND DEATH!'...And now, crack! It is in Carlotta's throat,
in Carlotta's golden throat, in Carlotta's crystal throat, as I live!
What does it say? It says, `It's I, Mr. Toad, it's I singing!
And now, crack! It is on a chair in the ghost's box and it says,
...And now, crack! Aha! Where is Erik's voice now?
Listen, Christine, darling! Listen! It is behind the door of the
torture-chamber! Listen! It's myself in the torture-chamber! And
what do I say? I say, `Woe to them that have a nose, a real nose,
and come to look round the torture-chamber! Aha, aha, aha!'"

Oh, the ventriloquist's terrible voice! It was everywhere, everywhere.
It passed through the little invisible window, through the walls.
It ran around us, between us. Erik was there, speaking to us!
We made a movement as though to fling ourselves upon him.
But, already, swifter, more fleeting than the voice of the echo,
Erik's voice had leaped back behind the wall!

Soon we heard nothing more at all, for this is what happened:

"Erik! Erik!" said Christine's voice. "You tire me with your voice.
Don't go on, Erik! Isn't it very hot here?"

"Oh, yes," replied Erik's voice, "the heat is unendurable!"

"But what does this mean?...The wall is really getting quite
hot!...The wall is burning!"

"I'll tell you, Christine, dear: it is because of the forest
next door."

"Well, what has that to do with it? The forest?"


And the monster laughed so loudly and hideously that we could no
longer distinguish Christine's supplicating cries! The Vicomte de
Chagny shouted and banged against the walls like a madman. I could
not restrain him. But we heard nothing except the monster's laughter,
and the monster himself can have heard nothing else. And then there
was the sound of a body falling on the floor and being dragged along
and a door slammed and then nothing, nothing more around us save
the scorching silence of the south in the heart of a tropical forest!

Chapter XXIV "Barrels!...Barrels!...Any Barrels to Sell?"


I have said that the room in which M. le Vicomte de Chagny and I
were imprisoned was a regular hexagon, lined entirely with mirrors.
Plenty of these rooms have been seen since, mainly at exhibitions:
they are called "palaces of illusion," or some such name.
But the invention belongs entirely to Erik, who built the first
room of this kind under my eyes, at the time of the rosy hours
of Mazenderan. A decorative object, such as a column, for instance,
was placed in one of the corners and immediately produced a hall
of a thousand columns; for, thanks to the mirrors, the real room
was multiplied by six hexagonal rooms, each of which, in its turn,
was multiplied indefinitely. But the little sultana soon tired
of this infantile illusion, whereupon Erik altered his invention
into a "torture-chamber." For the architectural motive placed
in one corner, he substituted an iron tree. This tree, with its
painted leaves, was absolutely true to life and was made of iron
so as to resist all the attacks of the "patient" who was locked into
the torture-chamber. We shall see how the scene thus obtained was twice
altered instantaneously into two successive other scenes, by means
of the automatic rotation of the drums or rollers in the corners.
These were divided into three sections, fitting into the angles
of the mirrors and each supporting a decorative scheme that came into
sight as the roller revolved upon its axis.

The walls of this strange room gave the patient nothing to lay
hold of, because, apart from the solid decorative object, they were
simply furnished with mirrors, thick enough to withstand any onslaught
of the victim, who was flung into the chamber empty-handed and barefoot.

There was no furniture. The ceiling was capable of being lit up.
An ingenious system of electric heating, which has since been imitated,
allowed the temperature of the walls and room to be increased
at will.

I am giving all these details of a perfectly natural invention,
producing, with a few painted branches, the supernatural illusion
of an equatorial forest blazing under the tropical sun, so that no
one may doubt the present balance of my brain or feel entitled
to say that I am mad or lying or that I take him for a fool.[11]

[11] It is very natural that, at the time when the Persian was writing,
he should take so many precautions against any spirit of incredulity
on the part of those who were likely to read his narrative.
Nowadays, when we have all seen this sort of room, his precautions
would be superfluous.

I now return to the facts where I left them. When the ceiling lit up
and the forest became visible around us, the viscount's stupefaction
was immense. That impenetrable forest, with its innumerable
trunks and branches, threw him into a terrible state of consternation.
He passed his hands over his forehead, as though to drive away a dream;
his eyes blinked; and, for a moment, he forgot to listen.

I have already said that the sight of the forest did not surprise
me at all; and therefore I listened for the two of us to what was
happening next door. Lastly, my attention was especially attracted,
not so much to the scene, as to the mirrors that produced it.
These mirrors were broken in parts. Yes, they were marked and scratched;
they had been "starred," in spite of their solidity; and this proved
to me that the torture-chamber in which we now were HAD ALREADY

Yes, some wretch, whose feet were not bare like those of the victims
of the rosy hours of Mazenderan, had certainly fallen into this
"mortal illusion" and, mad with rage, had kicked against those
mirrors which, nevertheless, continued to reflect his agony.
And the branch of the tree on which he had put an end to his own
sufferings was arranged in such a way that, before dying, he had seen,
for his last consolation, a thousand men writhing in his company.

Yes, Joseph Buquet had undoubtedly been through all this!
Were we to die as he had done? I did not think so, for I knew
that we had a few hours before us and that I could employ them
to better purpose than Joseph Buquet was able to do. After all,
I was thoroughly acquainted with most of Erik's "tricks;" and now
or never was the time to turn my knowledge to account.

To begin with, I gave up every idea of returning to the passage that
had brought us to that accursed chamber. I did not trouble about
the possibility of working the inside stone that closed the passage;
and this for the simple reason that to do so was out of the question.
We had dropped from too great a height into the torture-chamber;
there was no furniture to help us reach that passage; not even
the branch of the iron tree, not even each other's shoulders were
of any avail.

There was only one possible outlet, that opening into the Louis-Philippe
room in which Erik and Christine Daae were. But, though this outlet looked
like an ordinary door on Christine's side, it was absolutely invisible
to us. We must therefore try to open it without even knowing where it was.

When I was quite sure that there was no hope for us from Christine
Daae's side, when I had heard the monster dragging the poor girl from
I resolved to set to work without delay.

But I had first to calm M. de Chagny, who was already walking
about like a madman, uttering incoherent cries. The snatches of
conversation which he had caught between Christine and the monster
had contributed not a little to drive him beside himself:
add to that the shock of the magic forest and the scorching heat
which was beginning to make the prespiration{sic} stream down his
temples and you will have no difficulty in understanding his state
of mind. He shouted Christine's name, brandished his pistol,
knocked his forehead against the glass in his endeavors to run
down the glades of the illusive forest. In short, the torture
was beginning to work its spell upon a brain unprepared for it.

I did my best to induce the poor viscount to listen to reason.
I made him touch the mirrors and the iron tree and the branches
and explained to him, by optical laws, all the luminous imagery
by which we were surrounded and of which we need not allow ourselves
to be the victims, like ordinary, ignorant people.

"We are in a room, a little room; that is what you must keep saying
to yourself. And we shall leave the room as soon as we have found
the door."

And I promised him that, if he let me act, without disturbing me
by shouting and walking up and down, I would discover the trick
of the door in less than an hour's time.

Then he lay flat on the floor, as one does in a wood, and declared
that he would wait until I found the door of the forest, as there
was nothing better to do! And he added that, from where he was,
"the view was splendid!" The torture was working, in spite of all
that I had said.

Myself, forgetting the forest, I tackled a glass panel and began
to finger it in every direction, hunting for the weak point on which
to press in order to turn the door in accordance with Erik's system
of pivots. This weak point might be a mere speck on the glass,
no larger than a pea, under which the spring lay hidden.
I hunted and hunted. I felt as high as my hands could reach.
Erik was about the same height as myself and I thought that he would
not have placed the spring higher than suited his stature.

While groping over the successive panels with the greatest care,
I endeavored not to lose a minute, for I was feeling more and more
overcome with the heat and we were literally roasting in that
blazing forest.

I had been working like this for half an hour and had finished
three panels, when, as ill-luck would have it, I turned round
on hearing a muttered exclamation from the viscount.

"I am stifling," he said. "All those mirrors are sending out
an infernal heat! Do you think you will find that spring soon?
If you are much longer about it, we shall be roasted alive!"

I was not sorry to hear him talk like this. He had not said a word
of the forest and I hoped that my companion's reason would hold
out some time longer against the torture. But he added:

"What consoles me is that the monster has given Christine until
eleven to-morrow evening. If we can't get out of here and go
to her assistance, at least we shall be dead before her!
Then Erik's mass can serve for all of us!"

And he gulped down a breath of hot air that nearly made him faint.

As I had not the same desperate reasons as M. le Vicomte for
accepting death, I returned, after giving him a word of encouragement,
to my panel, but I had made the mistake of taking a few steps while
speaking and, in the tangle of the illusive forest, I was no longer
able to find my panel for certain! I had to begin all over again,
at random, feeling, fumbling, groping.

Now the fever laid hold of me in my turn...for I found nothing,
absolutely nothing. In the next room, all was silence. We were
quite lost in the forest, without an outlet, a compass, a guide
or anything. Oh, I knew what awaited us if nobody came to our aid...
or if I did not find the spring! But, look as I might, I found
nothing but branches, beautiful branches that stood straight up
before me, or spread gracefully over my head. But they gave no shade.
And this was natural enough, as we were in an equatorial forest,
with the sun right above our heads, an African forest.

M. de Chagny and I had repeatedly taken off our coats and put them
on again, finding at one time that they made us feel still hotter
and at another that they protected us against the heat. I was still
making a moral resistance, but M. de Chagny seemed to me quite "gone."
He pretended that he had been walking in that forest for three
days and nights, without stopping, looking for Christine Daae!
From time to time, he thought he saw her behind the trunk of a tree,
or gliding between the branches; and he called to her with words
of supplication that brought the tears to my eyes. And then,
at last:

"Oh, how thirsty I am!" he cried, in delirious accents.

I too was thirsty. My throat was on fire. And, yet, squatting on
the floor, I went on hunting, hunting, hunting for the spring of
the invisible door...especially as it was dangerous to remain
in the forest as evening drew nigh. Already the shades of night
were beginning to surround us. It had happened very quickly:
night falls quickly in tropical countries...suddenly, with hardly
any twilight.

Now night, in the forests of the equator, is always dangerous,
particularly when, like ourselves, one has not the materials for a
fire to keep off the beasts of prey. I did indeed try for a moment
to break off the branches, which I would have lit with my dark lantern,
but I knocked myself also against the mirrors and remembered,
in time, that we had only images of branches to do with.

The heat did not go with the daylight; on the contrary, it was now
still hotter under the blue rays of the moon. I urged the viscount
to hold our weapons ready to fire and not to stray from camp,
while I went on looking for my spring.

Suddenly, we heard a lion roaring a few yards away.

"Oh," whispered the viscount, "he is quite close!...Don't you
see him?...There...through the that thicket!
If he roars again, I will fire!..."

And the roaring began again, louder than before. And the viscount fired,
but I do not think that he hit the lion; only, he smashed a mirror,
as I perceived the next morning, at daybreak. We must have covered
a good distance during the night, for we suddenly found ourselves on
the edge of the desert, an immense desert of sand, stones and rocks.
It was really not worth while leaving the forest to come upon
the desert. Tired out, I flung myself down beside the viscount,
for I had had enough of looking for springs which I could not find.

I was quite surprised--and I said so to the viscount--that we
had encountered no other dangerous animals during the night.
Usually, after the lion came the leopard and sometimes the buzz
of the tsetse fly. These were easily obtained effects; and I
explained to M. de Chagny that Erik imitated the roar of a lion
on a long tabour or timbrel, with an ass's skin at one end.
Over this skin he tied a string of catgut, which was fastened
at the middle to another similar string passing through the whole
length of the tabour. Erik had only to rub this string with a glove
smeared with resin and, according to the manner in which he rubbed it,
he imitated to perfection the voice of the lion or the leopard,
or even the buzzing of the tsetse fly.

The idea that Erik was probably in the room beside us, working his trick,
made me suddenly resolve to enter into a parley with him, for we
must obviously give up all thought of taking him by surprise.
And by this time he must be quite aware who were the occupants
of his torture-chamber. I called him: "Erik! Erik!"

I shouted as loudly as I could across the desert, but there was no answer
to my voice. All around us lay the silence and the bare immensity of that
stony desert. What was to become of us in the midst of that awful solitude?

We were beginning literally to die of heat, hunger and thirst...
of thirst especially. At last, I saw M. de Chagny raise himself
on his elbow and point to a spot on the horizon. He had discovered
an oasis!

Yes, far in the distance was an oasis with limpid water,
which reflected the iron trees!...Tush, it was the scene of
the mirage....I recognized it at once...the worst of the
three!...No one had been able to fight against one.
...I did my utmost to keep my head AND NOT TO HOPE FOR WATER,
because I knew that, if a man hoped for water, the water that
reflected the iron tree, and if, after hoping for water, he struck
against the mirror, then there was only one thing for him to do:
to hang himself on the iron tree!

So I cried to M. de Chagny:

"It's the mirage!...It's the mirage!...Don't believe
in the water!...It's another trick of the mirrors!..."

Then he flatly told me to shut up, with my tricks of the mirrors,
my springs, my revolving doors and my palaces of illusions!
He angrily declared that I must be either blind or mad to imagine
that all that water flowing over there, among those splendid,
numberless trees, was not real water!...And the desert was real!
...And so was the forest!...And it was no use trying to take
him in...he was an old, experienced traveler...he had been
all over the place!

And he dragged himself along, saying: "Water! Water!"

And his mouth was open, as though he were drinking.

And my mouth was open too, as though I were drinking.

For we not only saw the water, but WE HEARD IT!...We heard
it flow, we heard it ripple!...Do you understand that word
...You put your tongue out of your mouth to listen to it better!

Lastly--and this was the most pitiless torture of all--we heard
the rain and it was not raining! This was an infernal invention.
...Oh, I knew well enough how Erik obtained it! He filled
with little stones a very long and narrow box, broken up inside
with wooden and metal projections. The stones, in falling,
struck against these projections and rebounded from one to another;
and the result was a series of pattering sounds that exactly imitated
a rainstorm.

Ah, you should have seen us putting out our tongues and dragging ourselves
toward the rippling river-bank! Our eyes and ears were full of water,
but our tongues were hard and dry as horn!

When we reached the mirror, M. de Chagny licked it...and I
also licked the glass.

It was burning hot!

Then we rolled on the floor with a hoarse cry of despair.
M. de Chagny put the one pistol that was still loaded to his temple;
and I stared at the Punjab lasso at the foot of the iron tree.
I knew why the iron tree had returned, in this third change of scene!...
The iron tree was waiting for me!...

But, as I stared at the Punjab lasso, I saw a thing that made me
start so violently that M. de Chagny delayed his attempt at suicide.
I took his arm. And then I caught the pistol from him...and then
I dragged myself on my knees toward what I had seen.

I had discovered, near the Punjab lasso, in a groove in the floor,
a black-headed nail of which I knew the use. At last I had discovered
the spring! I felt the nail....I lifted a radiant face to
M. de Chagny....The black-headed nail yielded to my pressure....

And then....

And then we saw not a door opened in the wall, but a cellar-flap
released in the floor. Cool air came up to us from the black
hole below. We stooped over that square of darkness as though over
a limpid well. With our chins in the cool shade, we drank it in.
And we bent lower and lower over the trap-door. What could there
be in that cellar which opened before us? Water? Water to drink?

I thrust my arm into the darkness and came upon a stone and another
stone...a staircase...a dark staircase leading into the cellar.
The viscount wanted to fling himself down the hole; but I,
fearing a new trick of the monster's, stopped him, turned on
my dark lantern and went down first.

The staircase was a winding one and led down into pitchy darkness.
But oh, how deliciously cool were the darkness and the stairs?
The lake could not be far away.

We soon reached the bottom. Our eyes were beginning to accustom
themselves to the dark, to distinguish shapes around us...
circular shapes...on which I turned the light of my lantern.


We were in Erik's cellar: it was here that he must keep his wine
and perhaps his drinking-water. I knew that Erik was a great lover
of good wine. Ah, there was plenty to drink here!

M. de Chagny patted the round shapes and kept on saying:

"Barrels! Barrels! What a lot of barrels!..."

Indeed, there was quite a number of them, symmetrically arranged
in two rows, one on either side of us. They were small barrels
and I thought that Erik must have selected them of that size
to facilitate their carriage to the house on the lake.

We examined them successively, to see if one of them had not
a funnel, showing that it had been tapped at some time or another.
But all the barrels were hermetically closed.

Then, after half lifting one to make sure it was full, we went
on our knees and, with the blade of a small knife which I carried,
I prepared to stave in the bung-hole.

At that moment, I seemed to hear, coming from very far, a sort
of monotonous chant which I knew well, from often hearing it
in the streets of Paris:

"Barrels!...Barrels!...Any barrels to sell?"

My hand desisted from its work. M. de Chagny had also heard.
He said:

"That's funny! It sounds as if the barrel were singing!"

The song was renewed, farther away:

"Barrels!...Barrels!...Any barrels to sell?..."

"Oh, I swear," said the viscount, "that the tune dies away
in the barrel!..."

We stood up and went to look behind the barrel.

"It's inside," said M. de Chagny, "it's inside!"

But we heard nothing there and were driven to accuse the bad condition
of our senses. And we returned to the bung-hole. M. de Chagny
put his two hands together underneath it and, with a last effort,
I burst the bung.

"What's this?" cried the viscount. "This isn't water!"

The viscount put his two full hands close to my lantern....I
stooped to look...and at once threw away the lantern with such
violence that it broke and went out, leaving us in utter darkness.

What I had seen in M. de Chagny's hands...was gun-powder!

Chapter XXV The Scorpion or the Grasshopper: Which?


The discovery flung us into a state of alarm that made us forget all
our past and present sufferings. We now knew all that the monster
meant to convey when he said to Christine Daae:

"Yes or no! If your answer is no, everybody will be dead AND BURIED!"

Yes, buried under the ruins of the Paris Grand Opera!

The monster had given her until eleven o'clock in the evening.
He had chosen his time well. There would be many people, many
"members of the human race," up there, in the resplendent theater.
What finer retinue could be expected for his funeral? He would go
down to the tomb escorted by the whitest shoulders in the world,
decked with the richest jewels.

Eleven o'clock to-morrow evening!

We were all to be blown up in the middle of the performance...
if Christine Daae said no!

Eleven o'clock to-morrow evening!...

And what else could Christine say but no? Would she not prefer
to espouse death itself rather than that living corpse? She did
not know that on her acceptance or refusal depended the awful fate
of many members of the human race!

Eleven o'clock to-morrow evening!

And we dragged ourselves through the darkness, feeling our way
to the stone steps, for the light in the trap-door overhead that
led to the room of mirrors was now extinguished; and we repeated
to ourselves:

"Eleven o'clock to-morrow evening!"

At last, I found the staircase. But, suddenly I drew myself up
on the first step, for a terrible thought had come to my mind:

"What is the time?"

Ah, what was the time?...For, after all, eleven o'clock to-morrow
evening might be now, might be this very moment! Who could tell us
the time? We seemed to have been imprisoned in that hell for days
and days...for years...since the beginning of the world.
Perhaps we should be blown up then and there! Ah, a sound! A crack!
"Did you hear that?...There, in the corner...good heavens!...
Like a sound of machinery!...Again!...Oh, for a light!...
Perhaps it's the machinery that is to blow everything up!...
I tell you, a cracking sound: are you deaf?"

M. de Chagny and I began to yell like madmen. Fear spurred us on.
We rushed up the treads of the staircase, stumbling as we went,
anything to escape the dark, to return to the mortal light of the room
of mirrors!

We found the trap-door still open, but it was now as dark
in the room of mirrors as in the cellar which we had left.
We dragged ourselves along the floor of the torture-chamber, the floor
that separated us from the powder-magazine. What was the time?
We shouted, we called: M. de Chagny to Christine, I to Erik.
I reminded him that I had saved his life. But no answer, save that
of our despair, of our madness: what was the time? We argued,
we tried to calculate the time which we had spent there, but we were
incapable of reasoning. If only we could see the face of a watch!...
Mine had stopped, but M. de Chagny's was still going...
He told me that he had wound it up before dressing for the Opera....
We had not a match upon us....And yet we must know....
M. de Chagny broke the glass of his watch and felt the two hands.
...He questioned the hands of the watch with his finger-tips,
going by the position of the ring of the watch....Judging
by the space between the hands, he thought it might be just eleven

But perhaps it was not the eleven o'clock of which we stood in dread.
Perhaps we had still twelve hours before us!

Suddenly, I exclaimed: "Hush!"

I seemed to hear footsteps in the next room. Some one tapped
against the wall. Christine Daae's voice said:

"Raoul! Raoul!" We were now all talking at once, on either side
of the wall. Christine sobbed; she was not sure that she would
find M. de Chagny alive. The monster had been terrible, it seemed,
had done nothing but rave, waiting for her to give him the "yes"
which she refused. And yet she had promised him that "yes," if he
would take her to the torture-chamber. But he had obstinately declined,
and had uttered hideous threats against all the members of the
human race! At last, after hours and hours of that hell, he had
that moment gone out, leaving her alone to reflect for the last time.

"Hours and hours? What is the time now? What is the time, Christine?"

"It is eleven o'clock! Eleven o'clock, all but five minutes!"

"But which eleven o'clock?"

"The eleven o'clock that is to decide life or death!...He told me
so just before he went....He is terrible....He is quite mad:
he tore off his mask and his yellow eyes shot flames!...He did
nothing but laugh!...He said, `I give you five minutes to spare
your blushes! Here,' he said, taking a key from the little bag
of life and death, `here is the little bronze key that opens the two
ebony caskets on the mantelpiece in the Louis-Philippe room.
...In one of the caskets, you will find a scorpion, in the other,
a grasshopper, both very cleverly imitated in Japanese bronze:
they will say yes or no for you. If you turn the scorpion round,
that will mean to me, when I return, that you have said yes.
The grasshopper will mean no.' And he laughed like a drunken demon.
I did nothing but beg and entreat him to give me the key of
the torture-chamber, promising to be his wife if he granted me
that request....But he told me that there was no future need
for that key and that he was going to throw it into the lake!...
And he again laughed like a drunken demon and left me. Oh, his last
words were, `The grasshopper! Be careful of the grasshopper!
A grasshopper does not only turn: it hops! It hops! And it hops
jolly high!'"

The five minutes had nearly elapsed and the scorpion and the grasshopper
were scratching at my brain. Nevertheless, I had sufficient
lucidity left to understand that, if the grasshopper were turned,
it would hop...and with it many members of the human race!
There was no doubt but that the grasshopper controlled an electric
current intended to blow up the powder-magazine!

M. de Chagny, who seemed to have recovered all his moral force
from hearing Christine's voice, explained to her, in a few
hurried words, the situation in which we and all the Opera were.
He told her to turn the scorpion at once.

There was a pause.

"Christine," I cried, "where are you?"

"By the scorpion."

"Don't touch it!"

The idea had come to me--for I knew my Erik--that the monster had
perhaps deceived the girl once more. Perhaps it was the scorpion
that would blow everything up. After all, why wasn't he there?
The five minutes were long past...and he was not back.
...Perhaps he had taken shelter and was waiting for the explosion!
...Why had he not returned?...He could not really expect
Christine ever to consent to become his voluntary prey!...Why
had he not returned?

"Don't touch the scorpion!" I said.

"Here he comes!" cried Christine. "I hear him! Here he is!"

We heard his steps approaching the Louis-Philippe room. He came
up to Christine, but did not speak. Then I raised my voice:

"Erik! It is I! Do you know me?"

With extraordinary calmness, he at once replied:

"So you are not dead in there? Well, then, see that you keep quiet."

I tried to speak, but he said coldly:

"Not a word, daroga, or I shall blow everything up." And he added,
"The honor rests with mademoiselle....Mademoiselle has not
touched the scorpion"--how deliberately he spoke!--"mademoiselle
has not touched the grasshopper"--with that composure!--"but it
is not too late to do the right thing. There, I open the caskets
without a key, for I am a trap-door lover and I open and shut
what I please and as I please. I open the little ebony caskets:
mademoiselle, look at the little dears inside. Aren't they pretty?
If you turn the grasshopper, mademoiselle, we shall all be blown up.
There is enough gun-powder under our feet to blow up a whole quarter
of Paris. If you turn the scorpion, mademoiselle, all that powder
will be soaked and drowned. Mademoiselle, to celebrate our wedding,
you shall make a very handsome present to a few hundred Parisians
who are at this moment applauding a poor masterpiece of Meyerbeer's shall make them a present of their lives....For,
with your own fair hands, you shall turn the scorpion....
And merrily, merrily, we will be married!"

A pause; and then:

"If, in two minutes, mademoiselle, you have not turned the scorpion,
I shall turn the grasshopper...and the grasshopper, I tell you,

The terrible silence began anew. The Vicomte de Chagny,
realizing that there was nothing left to do but pray, went down
on his knees and prayed. As for me, my blood beat so fiercely
that I had to take my heart in both hands, lest it should burst.
At last, we heard Erik's voice:

"The two minutes are past....Good-by, mademoiselle.
...Hop, grasshopper! "Erik," cried Christine, "do you swear
to me, monster, do you swear to me that the scorpion is the one to turn?

"Yes, to hop at our wedding."

"Ah, you see! You said, to hop!"

"At our wedding, ingenuous child!...The scorpion opens the ball.
...But that will do!...You won't have the scorpion? Then I
turn the grasshopper!"



I was crying out in concert with Christine. M. de Chagny was still
on his knees, praying.

"Erik! I have turned the scorpion!"

Oh, the second through which we passed!

Waiting! Waiting to find ourselves in fragments, amid the roar
and the ruins!

Feeling something crack beneath our feet, hearing an appalling hiss
through the open trap-door, a hiss like the first sound of a rocket!

It came softly, at first, then louder, then very loud. But it
was not the hiss of fire. It was more like the hiss of water.
And now it became a gurgling sound: "Guggle! Guggle!"

We rushed to the trap-door. All our thirst, which vanished when
the terror came, now returned with the lapping of the water.

The water rose in the cellar, above the barrels, the powder-barrels--
"Barrels!...Barrels! Any barrels to sell?"--and we went down to it
with parched throats. It rose to our chins, to our mouths. And we drank.
We stood on the floor of the cellar and drank. And we went up the
stairs again in the dark, step by step, went up with the water.

The water came out of the cellar with us and spread over the floor
of the room. If, this went on, the whole house on the lake would
be swamped. The floor of the torture-chamber had itself become
a regular little lake, in which our feet splashed. Surely there
was water enough now! Erik must turn off the tap!

"Erik! Erik! That is water enough for the gunpowder! Turn off
the tap! Turn off the scorpion!"

But Erik did not reply. We heard nothing but the water rising:
it was half-way to our waists!

"Christine!" cried M. de Chagny. "Christine! The water is up
to our knees!"

But Christine did not reply....We heard nothing but the water rising.

No one, no one in the next room, no one to turn the tap, no one
to turn the scorpion!

We were all alone, in the dark, with the dark water that seized us
and clasped us and froze us!

"Erik! Erik!"

"Christine! Christine!"

By this time, we had lost our foothold and were spinning round
in the water, carried away by an irresistible whirl, for the water
turned with us and dashed us against the dark mirror, which thrust
us back again; and our throats, raised above the whirlpool,
roared aloud.

Were we to die here, drowned in the torture-chamber? I had never
seen that. Erik, at the time of the rosy hours of Mazenderan,
had never shown me that, through the little invisible window.

"Erik! Erik!" I cried. "I saved your life! Remember!...You
were sentenced to death! But for me, you would be dead now!...

We whirled around in the water like so much wreckage.
But, suddenly, my straying hands seized the trunk of the iron tree!
I called M. de Chagny, and we both hung to the branch of the iron tree.

And the water rose still higher.

"Oh! Oh! Can you remember? How much space is there between the branch
of the tree and the dome-shaped ceiling? Do try to remember!...
After all, the water may stop, it must find its level!...There,
I think it is stopping!...No, no, oh, horrible!...Swim!
Swim for your life!"

Our arms became entangled in the effort of swimming; we choked;
we fought in the dark water; already we could hardly breathe the dark
air above the dark water, the air which escaped, which we could hear
escaping through some vent-hole or other.

"Oh, let us turn and turn and turn until we find the air hole
and then glue our mouths to it!"

But I lost my strength; I tried to lay hold of the walls!
Oh, how those glass walls slipped from under my groping
fingers!...We whirled round again!...We began to sink!
...One last effort!...A last cry: "Erik!...Christine!..."

"Guggle, guggle, guggle!" in our ears. "Guggle! Guggle!" At the
bottom of the dark water, our ears went, "Guggle! Guggle!"

And, before losing consciousness entirely, I seemed to hear,
between two guggles:

"Barrels! Barrels! Any barrels to sell?"

Chapter XXVI The End of the Ghost's Love Story

The previous chapter marks the conclusion of the written narrative
which the Persian left behind him.

Notwithstanding the horrors of a situation which seemed definitely
to abandon them to their deaths, M. de Chagny and his companion
were saved by the sublime devotion of Christine Daae. And I
had the rest of the story from the lips of the daroga himself.

When I went to see him, he was still living in his little flat
in the Rue de Rivoli, opposite the Tuileries. He was very ill,
and it required all my ardor as an historian pledged to the truth to
persuade him to live the incredible tragedy over again for my benefit.
His faithful old servant Darius showed me in to him. The daroga
received me at a window overlooking the garden of the Tuileries.
He still had his magnificent eyes, but his poor face looked very worn.
He had shaved the whole of his head, which was usually covered with
an astrakhan cap; he was dressed in a long, plain coat and amused
himself by unconsciously twisting his thumbs inside the sleeves;
but his mind was quite clear, and he told me his story with
perfect lucidity.

It seems that, when he opened his eyes, the daroga found himself
lying on a bed. M. de Chagny was on a sofa, beside the wardrobe.
An angel and a devil were watching over them.

After the deceptions and illusions of the torture-chamber, the precision
of the details of that quiet little middle-class room seemed to have
been invented for the express purpose of puzzling the mind of the
mortal rash enough to stray into that abode of living nightmare.
The wooden bedstead, the waxed mahogany chairs, the chest of drawers,
those brasses, the little square antimacassars carefully placed
on the backs of the chairs, the clock on the mantelpiece and the
harmless-looking ebony caskets at either end, lastly, the whatnot
filled with shells, with red pin-cushions, with mother-of-pearl boats
and an enormous ostrich-egg, the whole discreetly lighted by a shaded
lamp standing on a small round table: this collection of ugly,
peaceable, reasonable furniture, AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OPERA CELLARS,
bewildered the imagination more than all the late fantastic happenings.

And the figure of the masked man seemed all the more formidable
in this old-fashioned, neat and trim little frame. It bent down
over the Persian and said, in his ear:

"Are you better, daroga?...You are looking at my furniture?...
It is all that I have left of my poor unhappy mother."

Christine Daae did not say a word: she moved about noiselessly,
like a sister of charity, who had taken a vow of silence.
She brought a cup of cordial, or of hot tea, he did not remember which.
The man in the mask took it from her hands and gave it to the Persian.
M. de Chagny was still sleeping.

Erik poured a drop of rum into the daroga's cup and, pointing to
the viscount, said:

"He came to himself long before we knew if you were still alive,
daroga. He is quite well. He is asleep. We must not wake him."

Erik left the room for a moment, and the Persian raised himself
on his elbow, looked around him and saw Christine Daae sitting
by the fireside. He spoke to her, called her, but he was
still very weak and fell back on his pillow. Christine came
to him, laid her hand on his forehead and went away again.
And the Persian remembered that, as she went, she did not give
a glance at M. de Chagny, who, it is true, was sleeping peacefully;
and she sat down again in her chair by the chimney-corner,
silent as a sister of charity who had taken a vow of silence.

Erik returned with some little bottles which he placed on
the mantelpiece. And, again in a whisper, so as not to wake M. de
Chagny, he said to the Persian, after sitting down and feeling his pulse:

"You are now saved, both of you. And soon I shall take you up
to the surface of the earth, TO PLEASE MY WIFE."

Thereupon he rose, without any further explanation, and disappeared
once more.

The Persian now looked at Christine's quiet profile under the lamp.
She was reading a tiny book, with gilt edges, like a religious book.
There are editions of THE IMITATION that look like that. The Persian
still had in his ears the natural tone in which the other had said,
"to please my wife." Very gently, he called her again; but Christine
was wrapped up in her book and did not hear him.

Erik returned, mixed the daroga a draft and advised him not to speak to
"his wife" again nor to any one, BECAUSE IT MIGHT BE VERY DANGEROUS

Eventually, the Persian fell asleep, like M. de Chagny, and did not
wake until he was in his own room, nursed by his faithful Darius,
who told him that, on the night before, he was found propped against
the door of his flat, where he had been brought by a stranger,
who rang the bell before going away.

As soon as the daroga recovered his strength and his wits, he sent
to Count Philippe's house to inquire after the viscount's health.
The answer was that the young man had not been seen and that Count
Philippe was dead. His body was found on the bank of the Opera lake,
on the Rue-Scribe side. The Persian remembered the requiem mass
which he had heard from behind the wall of the torture-chamber,
and had no doubt concerning the crime and the criminal.
Knowing Erik as he did, he easily reconstructed the tragedy.
Thinking that his brother had run away with Christine Daae,
Philippe had dashed in pursuit of him along the Brussels Road,
where he knew that everything was prepared for the elopement.
Failing to find the pair, he hurried back to the Opera, remembered
Raoul's strange confidence about his fantastic rival and learned
that the viscount had made every effort to enter the cellars of
the theater and that he had disappeared, leaving his hat in the prima
donna's dressing-room beside an empty pistol-case. And the count,
who no longer entertained any doubt of his brother's madness, in his
turn darted into that infernal underground maze. This was enough,
in the Persian's eyes, to explain the discovery of the Comte
de Chagny's corpse on the shore of the lake, where the siren,
Erik's siren, kept watch.

The Persian did not hesitate. He determined to inform the police.
Now the case was in the hands of an examining-magistrate called Faure,
an incredulous, commonplace, superficial sort of person, (I write
as I think), with a mind utterly unprepared to receive a confidence
of this kind. M. Faure took down the daroga's depositions and
proceeded to treat him as a madman.

Despairing of ever obtaining a hearing, the Persian sat down to write.
As the police did not want his evidence, perhaps the press would be
glad of it; and he had just written the last line of the narrative
I have quoted in the preceding chapters, when Darius announced
the visit of a stranger who refused his name, who would not show
his face and declared simply that he did not intend to leave
the place until he had spoken to the daroga.

The Persian at once felt who his singular visitor was and ordered
him to be shown in. The daroga was right. It was the ghost,
it was Erik!

He looked extremely weak and leaned against the wall, as though he
were afraid of falling. Taking off his hat, he revealed a forehead
white as wax. The rest of the horrible face was hidden by the mask.

The Persian rose to his feet as Erik entered.

"Murderer of Count Philippe, what have you done with his brother
and Christine Daae?"

Erik staggered under this direct attack, kept silent for a moment,
dragged himself to a chair and heaved a deep sigh. Then, speaking in
short phrases and gasping for breath between the words:

"Daroga, don't talk to me...about Count Philippe....He was dead...
by the time...I left my house...he was dead... when...
the siren sang....It was an...accident...a sad...a very sad
...accident. He fell very awkwardly... but simply and naturally...
into the lake!..."

"You lie!" shouted the Persian.

Erik bowed his head and said:

"I have not come talk about Count Philippe...
but to tell you that...I am die. ..."

"Where are Raoul de Chagny and Christine Daae?"

"I am going to die."

"Raoul de Chagny and Christine Daae?"

"Of love...daroga...I am dying...of love...That is how it is....
loved her so!...And I love her still...daroga...and I am dying
of love for her, I...I tell you!...If you knew how beautiful she was...
when she let me kiss her...alive...It was the first...time, daroga,
the first...time I ever kissed a woman.... Yes, alive....I kissed her alive
...and she looked as beautiful as if she had been dead!"

The Persian shook Erik by the arm:

"Will you tell me if she is alive or dead."

"Why do you shake me like that?" asked Erik, making an effort
to speak more connectedly. "I tell you that I am going to die.
...Yes, I kissed her alive...."

"And now she is dead?"

"I tell you I kissed her just like that, on her forehead...
and she did not draw back her forehead from my lips!...Oh,
she is a good girl!...As to her being dead, I don't think so;
but it has nothing to do with me....No, no, she is not dead!
And no one shall touch a hair of her head! She is a good,
honest girl, and she saved your life, daroga, at a moment when I
would not have given twopence for your Persian skin. As a matter
of fact, nobody bothered about you. Why were you there with
that little chap? You would have died as well as he! My word,
how she entreated me for her little chap! But I told her that,
as she had turned the scorpion, she had, through that very fact,
and of her own free will, become engaged to me and that she did
not need to have two men engaged to her, which was true enough.

"As for you, you did not exist, you had ceased to exist, I tell you,
and you were going to die with the other!...Only, mark me,
daroga, when you were yelling like the devil, because of the water,
Christine came to me with her beautiful blue eyes wide open, and swore
to me, as she hoped to be saved, that she consented to be MY LIVING
WIFE!...Until then, in the depths of her eyes, daroga, I had
always seen my dead wife; it was the first time I saw MY LIVING
WIFE there. She was sincere, as she hoped to be saved. She would


Back to Full Books