9) JENNIFER BASSETT - The Phantom of the Opera.


9) JENNIFER BASSETT - The Phantom of the Opera

9 The house on the lake

When the lights came on, Raoul ran. He ran down stairs and along passages, through the Opera House to the back of the stage. In the passage outside Christine's dressing-room, a hand took his arm.
'What's the matter, my young friend? Where are you running to, so quickly?'
Raoul turned and saw the long face of the Persian under his black hat.
'Christine!' Raoul said quickly. 'Erik's got her. Where is she? Help me! How do I get to his house on the lake?'
'Come with me,' said the Persian.
They went quickly into Christine's dressing-room. The Persian closed the door and went to the big mirror on one wall.
'There's only one door into this room,' Raoul began.
'Wait,' the Persian said.

He put his hands on the big mirror, first here, then there. For a minute nothing happened. Then the mirror began to move and turn, and a big dark hole opened in it. Raoul stared.
'Quick! Come with me, but be careful,' the Persian said. 'I know Erik. I understand his secrets. Put your right hand up near your head, like this, and keep it there all the time.'
'But why?' Raoul asked.
'Remember Joseph Buquet, and the rope around his neck? Erik is a clever man with ropes in the dark.'
They went down, down, down, under the Opera House. They went through secret doors in the floors, then along passages and down dark stairs. The Persian listened carefully all the time for strange noises.

'When do we get to the lake?' Raoul whispered. 'We're not going by the lake. Erik watches it all the time. No, we go round the lake and get into Erik's house from the back. I know some secret doors.'
Soon they were there. In the dark, the Persian felt the wall carefully with his hands.
'Ah, here it is,' he whispered.
The wall moved under his hands and a small door opened. Very quietly, they went through, and then the door closed behind them. They could not get out. Inside the room it was very dark. They waited and listened. The Persian put his hands on the wall.

'Oh no!' he whispered. 'It was the wrong door! This is Erik's torture room - the room of mirrors! We are dead men, Vicomte de Chagny, dead men!'
At first Raoul did not understand. But he soon learnt. The lights came on, and they heard a man's laugh. Erik knew they were there. The room was all mirrors - walls, floor, ceiling. There were pictures in the mirrors of trees and flowers and rivers. The pictures moved and danced in front of their eyes. And the room was hot. It got hotter and hotter and hotter. Raoul was thirsty, hot and thirsty, and the rivers in the pictures danced and laughed at him. He closed his eyes, but the rivers still danced. Water, he needed water, but the mirrors laughed at him. Soon he could not move or speak, or open his eyes. He was not thirsty now, just tired, so tired.
'Oh Christine, I'm sorry,' he thought. 'I wanted to help you, and now I'm dying ...'

Through a mirror in the wall Christine watched her lover in the torture room. Behind her Erik stood, with his hands on her arms.
'He's dying, Christine, dying. Watch him carefully. No, don't close your eyes. Watch him!'
Christine could not speak. She wanted to scream, but no words came. Then she found her voice again.
'How can you do this, Erik! Why don't you kill me?'
'Because I love you, Christine. Marry me, be my wife, and love me. Then Raoul and the Persian can live.'
Slowly, Christine turned. She looked into Erik's terrible ugly face, and spoke again, very quietly.

'Yes, Erik. From this minute I am your wife.'
She put he arms around Erik's neck, and kissed him - kissed him slowly and lovingly on his ugly mouth.
Then she took her arms away and said slowly, 'Poor, unhappy Erik.'
Erik stared at her.
'You kissed me!' he whispered. 'I didn't ask you, but you kissed me - freely! Oh Christine, my angel. That was my first kiss from a woman. Even my mother never kissed me! She gave me my first mask when I was two years old. She turned her face away from me every time I came near her.'
Erik put his ugly face in his hands and cried. Then he went down on the floor at Christine's feet. 'You are free, Christine free! Go away and marry your Raoul, and be happy. But remember Erik, sometimes. Go now, quickly! Take Raoul and the Persian, and go!'