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"What's the matter?" they both asked, amazed at seeing him there at such a time.
"It seems there's a plot got up by Christine Daae's friends against Carlotta. Carlotta's furious."
"What on earth...?" said Richard, knitting his brows.
But the curtain rose on the kermess scene and Richard made a sign to the stage-manager to go away. When the two were alone again, Moncharmin leaned over to Richard:
"Then Daae has friends?" he asked.
"Yes, she has."
Richard glanced across at a box on the grand tier containing no one but two men.
"The Comte de Chagny?"
"Yes, he spoke to me in her favor with such warmth that, if I had not known him to be Sorelli's friend..."
"Really? Really?" said Moncharmin. "And who is that pale young man beside him?"
"That's his brother, the viscount."
"He ought to be in his bed. He looks ill."
The stage rang with gay song:
"Red or white liquor, Coarse or fine! What can it matter, So we have wine?"
Students, citizens, soldiers, girls and matrons whirled light-heartedly before the inn with the figure of Bacchus for a sign. Siebel made her entrance. Christine Daae looked charming in her boy's clothes; and Carlotta's partisans expected to hear her greeted with an ovation which would have enlightened them as to the intentions of her friends. But nothing happened.
On the other hand, when Margarita crossed the stage and sang the only two lines allotted her in this second act:
"No, my lord, not a lady am I, nor yet a beauty, And do not need an arm to help me on my way,"
Carlotta was received with enthusiastic applause. It was so unexpected and so uncalled for that those who knew nothing about the rumors looked at one another and asked what was happening. And this act also was finished without incident.
Then everybody said: "Of course, it will be during the next act."
Some, who seemed to be better informed than the rest, declared that the "row" would begin with the ballad of the KING OF THULE and rushed to the subscribers' entrance to warn Carlotta. The managers left the box during the entr'acte to find out more about the cabal of which the stage-manager had spoken; but they soon returned to their seats, shrugging their shoulders and treating the whole affair as silly.
The first thing they saw, on entering the box, was a box of English sweets on the little shelf of the ledge. Who had put it there? They asked the box-keepers, but none of them knew. Then they went back to the shelf and, next to the box of sweets, found an opera glass. They looked at each other. They had no inclination to laugh. All that Mme. Giry had told them returned to their memory...and then...and then...they seemed to feel a curious sort of draft around them....They sat down in silence.
The scene represented Margarita's garden:
"Gentle flow'rs in the dew,
As she sang these first two lines, with her bunch of roses and lilacs in her hand, Christine, raising her head, saw the Vicomte de Chagny in his box; and, from that moment, her voice seemed less sure, less crystal-clear than usual. Something seemed to deaden and dull her singing. ...
"What a queer girl she is!" said one of Carlotta's friends in the stalls, almost aloud. "The other day she was divine; and to-night she's simply bleating. She has no experience, no training."
"Gentle flow'rs, lie ye there
The viscount put his head under his hands and wept. The count, behind him, viciously gnawed his mustache, shrugged his shoulders and frowned. For him, usually so cold and correct, to betray his inner feelings like that, by outward signs, the count must be very angry. He was. He had seen his brother return from a rapid and mysterious journey in an alarming state of health. The explanation that followed was unsatisfactory and the count asked Christine Daae for an appointment. She had the audacity to reply that she could not see either him or his brother. ...
"Would she but deign to hear me
"The little baggage!" growled the count.
And he wondered what she wanted. What she was hoping for. ...She was a virtuous girl, she was said to have no friend, no protector of any sort....That angel from the North must be very artful!
Raoul, behind the curtain of his hands that veiled his boyish tears, thought only of the letter which he received on his return to Paris, where Christine, fleeing from Perros like a thief in the night, had arrived before him:
MY DEAR LITTLE PLAYFELLOW:
You must have the courage not to see me again, not to speak of me again. If you love me just a little, do this for me, for me who will never forget you, my dear Raoul. My life depends upon it. Your life depends upon it. YOUR LITTLE CHRISTINE.
Thunders of applause. Carlotta made her entrance.
"I wish I could but know who was he
When Margarita had finished singing the ballad of the KING OF THULE, she was loudly cheered and again when she came to the end of the jewel song:
"Ah, the joy of past compare
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The Phantom of the Opera -by- Gaston Leroux