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"No, no, go on."
"You are too good, gentlemen," with a smirk. "Well, then, Mephistopheles went on with his serenade"--Mme. Giry, burst into song again--" `Saint, unclose thy portals holy and accord the bliss, to a mortal bending lowly, of a pardon-kiss.' And then M. Maniera again hears the voice in his right ear, saying, this time, `Ha, ha! Julie wouldn't mind according a kiss to Isidore!' Then he turns round again, but, this time, to the left; and what do you think he sees? Isidore, who had taken his lady's hand and was covering it with kisses through the little round place in the glove-- like this, gentlemen"--rapturously kissing the bit of palm left bare in the middle of her thread gloves. "Then they had a lively time between them! Bang! Bang! M. Maniera, who was big and strong, like you, M. Richard, gave two blows to M. Isidore Saack, who was small and weak like M. Moncharmin, saving his presence. There was a great uproar. People in the house shouted, `That will do! Stop them! He'll kill him!' Then, at last, M. Isidore Saack managed to run away."
"Then the ghost had not broken his leg?" asked M. Moncharmin, a little vexed that his figure had made so little impression on Mme. Giry.
"He did break it for him, sir," replied Mme. Giry haughtily. "He broke it for him on the grand staircase, which he ran down too fast, sir, and it will be long before the poor gentleman will be able to go up it again!"
"Did the ghost tell you what he said in M. Maniera's right ear?" asked M. Moncharmin, with a gravity which he thought exceedingly humorous.
"No, sir, it was M. Maniera himself. So----"
"But you have spoken to the ghost, my good lady?"
"As I'm speaking to you now, my good sir!" Mme. Giry replied.
"And, when the ghost speaks to you, what does he say?"
"Well, he tells me to bring him a footstool!"
This time, Richard burst out laughing, as did Moncharmin and Remy, the secretary. Only the inspector, warned by experience, was careful not to laugh, while Mme. Giry ventured to adopt an attitude that was positively threatening.
"Instead of laughing," she cried indignantly, "you'd do better to do as M. Poligny did, who found out for himself."
"Found out about what?" asked Moncharmin, who had never been so much amused in his life.
"About the ghost, of course!...Look here..."
She suddenly calmed herself, feeling that this was a solemn moment in her life:
"LOOK HERE," she repeated. "They were playing La Juive. M. Poligny thought he would watch the performance from the ghost's box. ...Well, when Leopold cries, `Let us fly!'--you know--and Eleazer stops them and says, `Whither go ye?'...well, M. Poligny-- I was watching him from the back of the next box, which was empty-- M. Poligny got up and walked out quite stiffly, like a statue, and before I had time to ask him, `Whither go ye?' like Eleazer, he was down the staircase, but without breaking his leg.
"Still, that doesn't let us know how the Opera ghost came to ask you for a footstool," insisted M. Moncharmin.
"Well, from that evening, no one tried to take the ghost's private box from him. The manager gave orders that he was to have it at each performance. And, whenever he came, he asked me for a footstool."
"Tut, tut! A ghost asking for a footstool! Then this ghost of yours is a woman?"
"No, the ghost is a man."
"How do you know?"
"He has a man's voice, oh, such a lovely man's voice! This is what happens: When he comes to the opera, it's usually in the middle of the first act. He gives three little taps on the door of Box Five. The first time I heard those three taps, when I knew there was no one in the box, you can think how puzzled I was! I opened the door, listened, looked; nobody! And then I heard a voice say, `Mme. Jules' my poor husband's name was Jules--`a footstool, please.' Saving your presence, gentlemen, it made me feel all-overish like. But the voice went on, `Don't be frightened, Mme. Jules, I'm the Opera ghost!' And the voice was so soft and kind that I hardly felt frightened. THE VOICE WAS SITTING IN THE CORNER CHAIR, ON THE RIGHT, IN THE FRONT ROW."
"Was there any one in the box on the right of Box Five?" asked Moncharmin.
"No; Box Seven, and Box Three, the one on the left, were both empty. The curtain had only just gone up."
"And what did you do?"
"Well, I brought the footstool. Of course, it wasn't for himself he wanted it, but for his lady! But I never heard her nor saw her."
"Eh? What? So now the ghost is married!" The eyes of the two managers traveled from Mme. Giry to the inspector, who, standing behind the box-keeper, was waving his arms to attract their attention. He tapped his forehead with a distressful forefinger, to convey his opinion that the widow Jules Giry was most certainly mad, a piece of pantomime which confirmed M. Richard in his determination to get rid of an inspector who kept a lunatic in his service. Meanwhile, the worthy lady went on about her ghost, now painting his generosity:
"At the end of the performance, he always gives me two francs, sometimes five, sometimes even ten, when he has been many days without coming. Only, since people have begun to annoy him again, he gives me nothing at all.
"Excuse me, my good woman," said Moncharmin, while Mme. Giry tossed the feathers in her dingy hat at this persistent familiarity, "excuse me, how does the ghost manage to give you your two francs?"
"Why, he leaves them on the little shelf in the box, of course. I find them with the program, which I always give him. Some evenings, I find flowers in the box, a rose that must have dropped from his lady's bodice...for he brings a lady with him sometimes; one day, they left a fan behind them."
"Oh, the ghost left a fan, did he? And what did you do with it?"
"Well, I brought it back to the box next night."
Here the inspector's voice was raised.
"You've broken the rules; I shall have to fine you, Mme. Giry."
"Hold your tongue, you fool!" muttered M. Firmin Richard.
"You brought back the fan. And then?"
"Well, then, they took it away with them, sir; it was not there at the end of the performance; and in its place they left me a box of English sweets, which I'm very fond of. That's one of the ghost's pretty thoughts."
"That will do, Mme. Giry. You can go."
When Mme. Giry had bowed herself out, with the dignity that never deserted her, the manager told the inspector that they had decided to dispense with that old madwoman's services; and, when he had gone in his turn, they instructed the acting-manager to make up the inspector's accounts. Left alone, the managers told each other of the idea which they both had in mind, which was that they should look into that little matter of Box Five themselves.
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The Phantom of the Opera -by- Gaston Leroux