The Phantom of the Opera HTML version

Chapter 24. "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.