In the meantime, in the entrance hall of the Opera, Sorelli was giving her prepared speech in front of the authorities of the both the social and artistic circles of Paris. Standing behind her were the members of the corps de ballet, who discussed the events of the day in whispers.
The atmosphere was remarked to be cheerful.
“The Opera ghost!” screamed Jammes in terror, with her finger pointed towards the crowd, to the skeleton face so despicable(1), so bloodless, with two deep black holes for eyes.
“The Opera ghost! The Opera ghost”
Indeed, Sorelli was perturbed(2) that she was unable to finish her speech. Nevertheless, the managers kissed her, thanked her, and ran away as fast as the ghost himself afterwards. Unsurprisingly, there were two more floors above packed with crowds waiting to say goodbye to them so there was no time to spare.
Here, they found the new managers, Monsieur Armand Moncharmin and Monsieur Firmin Richard. The retiring managers had already handed over the two keys which is capable of opening every single door in the Opera, and there were thousands of them.
At the end of the table was that strange face with the hollow eyes, sitting naturally as any gentlemen. But he neither ate nor drank. No one smiled, or joked, or screamed. Those who had seen him first were then turning their heads away.
A number of those present who had been acknowledged of the story of the ghost and the description by the unfortunate Joseph Buquet assumed the man was the notorious(3) spectre. But, according to the story, the ghost had no nose and this person had. But Monsieur Moncharmin says in his Memories that you could see through the guest’s nose.
This is what happened: Monsieur Debienne and Monsieur Poligny had not seen the man with the face of Death. Suddenly, the man began to speak. “The ballet girls are right,” said he. “The death of that poor Buquet was not as natural as people think.”
Uninformed of the incident, the two retiring managers rose and stared at the speaker. They were more than shocked and both men turned white. They excused themselves and the other three men and went into the manager’s office.
I shall leave Monsieur Moncharmin to complete the story. In Memories , he says:
“Monsieur Debienne and Monsieur Poligny firstly asked whether we knew the man, at the end of the table. When we replied in the negative, they looked even more concerned. They took the keys from our hands and advised us to have new locks made as there was a ghost in the Opera. They said in such a witty(4) voice that we once thought it was a joke intended for our evening’s entertainment so, we laughed, incautiously(5).
Then, at their request, we became “serious”, deciding to let them play their game. They informed us that the death of Joseph Buquet was a reminder that we had to please every single request of the ghost or else, disaster would strike.
Monsieur Poligny went to his desk and returned with a copy of the memorandum(6) book, which contains the managers’ rules for the Paris Opera. It looked exactly like the one we had except that at the end there was a passage in red ink written as follows: “An allowance of 20,000 francs per month is to be made to the Opera ghost.”
“Is that all the ghost wants?” – asked Monsieur Richard in an imperturbable(7) composure(8).
“Box Five will be for the use of the Opera ghost for every performance” – replied Poligny.
We rose from our chairs, shook their hands, and thanked them for the charming(9) joke.
Monsieur Poligny asked, “Have you considered what the loss of Box Five meant to us? We did not sell it once. We really can’t work to keep ghosts! We prefer to leave!”
Monsieur Richard said, “It seems to me that you were much too lenient(10) with the ghost. If I were you, I would not hesitate to throw him into the dungeon(11) of Hell.”
“But how?” they cried. “We have never seen him!”
“But when he comes to his box?”
“We have never seen him in his box.”
“Then sell it.”
“Sell the Opera ghost’s box! Well, gentlemen, try that.”
Then, we all four left the office. Richard and I had never laughed so much in our lives.
Firmin Richard, a famous and much respected writer of music, who had a number of successful pieces in print, had a strong characteristic, but unfortunately, his temper was nasty.
Starting his first day, his secretary, Monsieur Remy, presented him a letter marked “private”. It was addressed in red ink, handwritten that he had never seen before. He remembered the memorandum book and opened the letter:
“Dear Mr. Manager:
I am terribly sorry to bother you in your busy hours. I know what you have done for Carlotta, Sorelli and Jammes, and for a few others whose meritorious(12) qualities, of talent, you have suspected.
When I use these words, I am not referring to La Carlotta, nor to Jammes. Not Christine Daae either. Although her genius is certain, your jealousy prevents her from performing any important part. I am not happy that you have forbidden her to play the part of Margarita since her triumph the other evening, but I would like to hear her in the supporting role tonight.
I will ask you not to sell my box today nor at anytime, as I cannot end this letter without expressing my surprise when I heard that box had been sold on your orders.. If you wish to live in peace, you must not take away my private box.
Your Most Obedient(13) Servant,
“What’s all of this?” asked Monsieur Moncharmin. “Do they imagine that because they have been managers of the Opera, we are going to let them have a box for an indefinite period?”
“I am not in the mood to let myself be laughed at for long,” – said Monsieur Richard.
“It’s harmless enough,” observed Monsieur Moncharmin. “What is it they really want? A box for tonight?”
Monsieur Richard told his secretary to send tickets for Box Five to Monsieur Debienne and Monsieur Poligny, if it was not sold. It was not, and the tickets were sent off to them. The new managers regretted that two men of that age could amuse themselves with such childish tricks.
The next morning, the managers received a thank you card from the ghost:
“Dear Mr. Manager:
Thanks. Charming evening. Daae, wonderful. Carlotta, as usual. Will write you soon for my allowance.
On the other hand, there was a letter from Monsieur Debienne and Monsieur Poligny:
We are very grateful for your kind thought, but you will easily understand that we have no right to sit in Box Five, which is the property of the Opera ghost.”
“These two are beginning to annoy me!” – shouted Monsieur Richard.
And that evening Box Five was sold.
The next morning, Monsieur Richard and Monsieur Moncharmin found an inspector’s report in the office. The report stated there were people making noise and annoying others in Box Five. The inspectors came to solve but with no success as they began laughing again as soon as they left.
“Send for the inspector,” said Monsieur Richard to his secretary.
The inspector came in.
“Tell us what happened” – demanded Monsieur Richard.
“As soon as those people entered the box, they came out again and called the box-keeper. They said, ‘Look in the box: there’s no one there, is there?’ ‘No,’ said the woman. ‘Well,’ they said, ‘when we went it, we heard a voice saying that the box was reserved.”
The scenery manager came in to discuss various matters of business with Monsieur Richard. The inspector thought he could go, when Monsieur Richard nailed him to the floor with a thundering(14), “Stay where you are!”
Remy returned with the box-keeper.
“What’s your name?” asked Monsieur Richard.
“Madame Giry. You know me well enough, sir. I’m the mother of little Giry and Meg!”
“Never heard of her!” the manager said. “Tell me, what happened last night?”
“I wanted to see you, sir, and talk to you about it, so that you wouldn’t have the same unpleasantness as Monsieur Debienne and Monsieur Poligny.”
“What happened last night?”
“I’ll tell you what happened. The ghost was exasperated(15), again!”
Monsieur Moncharmin interrupted her. “And have you spoken to the ghost, my good lady?”
“As I am speaking to you now, sir!”
“And what did he say?”
“Well, he tells me to bring him a footrest!”
Richard burst out laughing.
“Instead of laughing, you’d be wise to do as Monsieur Poligny did. He found out for himself!” she said.
“Found out what?” asked Moncharmin.
“The ghost, of course! They were playing La Juive and Monsieur Poligny thought he would watch the performance from Box Five… Well, when Leopold cries, ‘Let us fly!’, Monsieur Poligny got up and walked out quite stiffly…”
“And how is that related to the ghost’s request of yours?”
“Well, from that evening, no one tried to take the ghost’s private box with him. The manager gave orders that he must have it at each performance. And, whenever he came, he asked me for a footrest.”
You say, ‘he’?”
“Yes, he has a man’s voice. He usually comes to the Opera in the middle of the first act and knocks three times on the door of Box Five. I was frightened the first time this happened, but he said to me, ‘Don’t be frightened, Madame Giry, I’m the Opera ghost!’”
Finally, Monsieur Moncharmin said, “That’s enough, Madame Giry. You can go.” Then he told the inspector that they no longer needed that madwoman. They decided that they should inspect Box Five themselves.
- Despicable (adj): deserving hatred and contempt
- Perturbed (adj): anxious or unsettled; upset
- Notorious (adj): famous or well known, typically for some bad quality or deed
- Witty (adj): funny
- Incautiously (adj): in a manner heedless of potential problems or risks
- Memorandum (n): a written message, especially in business or diplomacy
- Imperturbable (adj): unable to be upset or excited; calm
- Composure (n): the state or feeling of being calm and in control of oneself
- Charming (adj): pleasant or attractive
- Lenient (adj): (of punishment or a person in authority) permissive, merciful, or tolerant
- Dungeon (n): a medieval prison, usually built underground
- Meritorious (adj): deserving reward or praise
- Obedient (adj): complying or willing to comply with orders or requests
- Thundering (adj): making a resounding, loud, deep noise
- Exasperated (adj): irritated intensely; infuriated