The Phantom of the Opera HTML version
Chapter 3. The Mysterious Reason
During this time, the farewell ceremony was taking place. I have already said that this
magnificent function was being given on the occasion of the retirement of M. Debienne
and M. Poligny, who had determined to "die game," as we say nowadays. They had been
assisted in the realization of their ideal, though melancholy, program by all that counted
in the social and artistic world of Paris. All these people met, after the performance, in
the foyer of the ballet, where Sorelli waited for the arrival of the retiring managers with a
glass of champagne in her hand and a little prepared speech at the tip of her tongue.
Behind her, the members of the Corps de Ballet, young and old, discussed the events of
the day in whispers or exchanged discreet signals with their friends, a noisy crowd of
whom surrounded the supper-tables arranged along the slanting floor.
A few of the dancers had already changed into ordinary dress; but most of them wore
their skirts of gossamer gauze; and all had thought it the right thing to put on a special
face for the occasion: all, that is, except little Jammes, whose fifteen summers--happy
age!--seemed already to have forgotten the ghost and the death of Joseph Buquet. She
never ceased to laugh and chatter, to hop about and play practical jokes, until Mm.
Debienne and Poligny appeared on the steps of the foyer, when she was severely called to
order by the impatient Sorelli.
Everybody remarked that the retiring managers looked cheerful, as is the Paris way. None
will ever be a true Parisian who has not learned to wear a mask of gaiety over his sorrows
and one of sadness, boredom or indifference over his inward joy. You know that one of
your friends is in trouble; do not try to console him: he will tell you that he is already
comforted; but, should he have met with good fortune, be careful how you congratulate
him: he thinks it so natural that he is surprised that you should speak of it. In Paris, our
lives are one masked ball; and the foyer of the ballet is the last place in which two men so
"knowing" as M. Debienne and M. Poligny would have made the mistake of betraying
their grief, however genuine it might be. And they were already smiling rather too
broadly upon Sorelli, who had begun to recite her speech, when an exclamation from that
little madcap of a Jammes broke the smile of the managers so brutally that the expression
of distress and dismay that lay beneath it became apparent to all eyes:
"The Opera ghost!"
Jammes yelled these words in a tone of unspeakable terror; and her finger pointed, among
the crowd of dandies, to a face so pallid, so lugubrious and so ugly, with two such deep
black cavities under the straddling eyebrows, that the death's head in question
immediately scored a huge success.
"The Opera ghost! The Opera ghost!" Everybody laughed and pushed his neighbor and
wanted to offer the Opera ghost a drink, but he was gone. He had slipped through the