The Phantom of the Opera HTML version

Chapter 20. In the Cellars of the Opera
"Your hand high, ready to fire!" repeated Raoul's companion quickly.
The wall, behind them, having completed the circle which it described upon itself, closed
again; and the two men stood motionless for a moment, holding their breath.
At last, the Persian decided to make a movement; and Raoul heard him slip on his knees
and feel for something in the dark with his groping hands. Suddenly, the darkness was
made visible by a small dark lantern and Raoul instinctively stepped backward as though
to escape the scrutiny of a secret enemy. But he soon perceived that the light belonged to
the Persian, whose movements he was closely observing. The little red disk was turned in
every direction and Raoul saw that the floor, the walls and the ceiling were all formed of
planking. It must have been the ordinary road taken by Erik to reach Christine's dressing-
room and impose upon her innocence. And Raoul, remembering the Persian's remark,
thought that it had been mysteriously constructed by the ghost himself. Later, he learned
that Erik had found, all prepared for him, a secret passage, long known to himself alone
and contrived at the time of the Paris Commune to allow the jailers to convey their
prisoners straight to the dungeons that had been constructed for them in the cellars; for
the Federates had occupied the opera-house immediately after the eighteenth of March
and had made a starting-place right at the top for their Mongolfier balloons, which carried
their incendiary proclamations to the departments, and a state prison right at the bottom.
The Persian went on his knees and put his lantern on the ground. He seemed to be
working at the floor; and suddenly he turned off his light. Then Raoul heard a faint click
and saw a very pale luminous square in the floor of the passage. It was as though a
window had opened on the Opera cellars, which were still lit. Raoul no longer saw the
Persian, but he suddenly felt him by his side and heard him whisper:
"Follow me and do all that I do."
Raoul turned to the luminous aperture. Then he saw the Persian, who was still on his
knees, hang by his hands from the rim of the opening, with his pistol between his teeth,
and slide into the cellar below.
Curiously enough, the viscount had absolute confidence in the Persian, though he knew
nothing about him. His emotion when speaking of the "monster" struck him as sincere;
and, if the Persian had cherished any sinister designs against him, he would not have
armed him with his own hands. Besides, Raoul must reach Christine at all costs. He
therefore went on his knees also and hung from the trap with both hands.
"Let go!" said a voice.