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- The Phantom of the Opera - 8/53 -
"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:
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,
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