The first words of the commissary of police, on entering the managers' office, were to ask after the missing prima donna.
"Is Christine Daae here?"
"Christine Daae here?" echoed Richard. "No. Why?"
As for Moncharmin, he had not the strength left to utter a word.
Richard repeated, for the commissary and the compact crowd which had followed him into the office observed an impressive silence.
"Why do you ask if Christine Daae is here, M. LE COMMISSAIRE?"
"Because she has to be found," declared the commissary of police solemnly.
"What do you mean, she has to be found? Has she disappeared?"
"In the middle of the performance!"
"In the middle of the performance? This is extraordinary!"
"Isn't it? And what is quite as extraordinary is that you should first learn it from me!"
"Yes," said Richard, taking his head in his hands and muttering. "What is this new business? Oh, it's enough to make a man send in his resignation!"
And he pulled a few hairs out of his mustache without even knowing what he was doing.
"So she...so she disappeared in the middle of the performance?" he repeated.
"Yes, she was carried off in the Prison Act, at the moment when she was invoking the aid of the angels; but I doubt if she was carried off by an angel."
"And I am sure that she was!"
Everybody looked round. A young man, pale and trembling with excitement, repeated:
"I am sure of it!"
"Sure of what?" asked Mifroid.
"That Christine Daae was carried off by an angel, M. LE COMMISSAIRE and I can tell you his name."
"Aha, M. le Vicomte de Chagny! So you maintain that Christine Daae was carried off by an angel: an angel of the Opera, no doubt?"
"Yes, monsieur, by an angel of the Opera; and I will tell you where he lives...when we are alone."
"You are right, monsieur."
And the commissary of police, inviting Raoul to take a chair, cleared the room of all the rest, excepting the managers.
Then Raoul spoke:
"M. le Commissaire, the angel is called Erik, he lives in the Opera and he is the Angel of Music!"
"The Angel of Music! Really! That is very curious!...The Angel of Music!" And, turning to the managers, M. Mifroid asked, "Have you an Angel of Music on the premises, gentlemen?"
Richard and Moncharmin shook their heads, without even speaking.
"Oh," said the viscount, "those gentlemen have heard of the Opera ghost. Well, I am in a position to state that the Opera ghost and the Angel of Music are one and the same person; and his real name is Erik."
M. Mifroid rose and looked at Raoul attentively.
"I beg your pardon, monsieur but is it your intention to make fun of the law? And, if not, what is all this about the Opera ghost?"
"I say that these gentlemen have heard of him."
"Gentlemen, it appears that you know the Opera ghost?"
Richard rose, with the remaining hairs of his mustache in his hand.
"No, M. Commissary, no, we do not know him, but we wish that we did, for this very evening he has robbed us of twenty-thousand francs!"
And Richard turned a terrible look on Moncharmin, which seemed to say:
"Give me back the twenty-thousand francs, or I'll tell the whole story."
Moncharmin understood what he meant, for, with a distracted gesture, he said:
"Oh, tell everything and have done with it!"
As for Mifroid, he looked at the managers and at Raoul by turns and wondered whether he had strayed into a lunatic asylum. He passed his hand through his hair.
"A ghost," he said, "who, on the same evening, carries off an opera-singer and steals twenty-thousand francs is a ghost who must have his hands very full! If you don't mind, we will take the questions in order. The singer first, the twenty-thousand francs after. Come, M. de Chagny, let us try to talk seriously. You believe that Mlle. Christine Daae has been carried off by an individual called Erik. Do you know this person? Have you seen him?"
"In a church yard."
M. Mifroid gave a start, began to scrutinize Raoul again and said:
"Of course!...That's where ghosts usually hang out!...And what were you doing in that churchyard?"
"Monsieur," said Raoul, "I can quite understand how absurd my replies must seem to you. But I beg you to believe that I am in full possession of my faculties. The safety of the person dearest to me in the world is at stake. I should like to convince you in a few words, for time is pressing and every minute is valuable. Unfortunately, if I do not tell you the strangest story that ever was from the beginning, you will not believe me. I will tell you all I know about the Opera ghost, M. Commissary. Alas, I do not know much!..."
The Phantom of the Opera -by- Gaston Leroux