Irene Emelyanova (Irene the Lazer Lady)
is never too late
"No I will
"Certainly you will educate your eldest son in music, Count de Chagny!" - the
Comtesse snapped. - "Don't make a mistake in that!"
"I will not! - the Count snarled, his fine countenance distorted in rage, while
opposite to the deadly calmness of his wife. - It's enough for me to be married
to a former opera singer! Enough to be thrown out of the capital society! Enough
to live this provincial life, enough whispers and rumors which follow me even
here! If I agree to find Charles a music teacher people will say that he is
possibly not my son, but some of your former fellow actors..."
The small white hand of the Comtesse raised like lightning, but the former
sailor still had his reflexes. He caught his wife's wrist in his iron grip and
looked straight into her eyes.
He saw there something that made him begin considering his actions.
"Christine, I didn't mean..."
The tone of these words would make the Count's hand relax even if he himself
didn't want it.
The Comtesse went to the door in a quick measured step, and soon the Count heard
the door of her own room slumming.
Raoul sighed deeply. He would never mean to hurt Christine in such a way. He
would never mean to hurt Christine at all. She was a superb wife, a perfect
mother to their two children, a good housekeeper and a decent mistress. She was
also beautiful and gentle. He had nothing to reprimand her for.
But still he had had to leave Paris because, if he stayed, many Parisian
aristocrats would point at him and laugh at his morganatic marriage. It was all
right for an aristocrat to have a singer mistress, but to marry one for a de
Chagny was almost as unthinkable as it would be in 17th century. So after
they... had become able to manage their own lives he quickly bought two tickets
for a train to Stokholm and soon after they settled down in a small Swedish
town, on its way to becoming a city, where no one knew them...
But rumours pursued them. Maybe something in Christine betrayed her origins.
Maybe it's just someone who had seen her on the Paris Opera stage could mention
the fact passing by. In addition to the fact that a dashing young French
aristocrat somewhy perferred the forsaken Sweden province to his native city it
was enough for the bored people to think God knew what...
Raoul was happy with his beloved Christine whom he had got as his wife by some
miracle never fully understood by him. He cherished her in any way he could, he
never refused her anything, he had told her that he didn't miss his Parisian
life at all and didn't want to speak about the possibilities it could give him.
He strongly preferred marriage to Christine to any other conditions and was even
more happy to see how his features blended with her features in the faces of
Charles and Andre. He asked her only one thing, and she acceded joyfully.
He asked her not to sing.
Christine's singing reminded them too keenly about their terrible past...
A storey below, enraged Christine paced in her room. She was trying to catch her
breath, clasping her hands pressed to her chest, but the nervous pacing didn't
do much in calming her down. The furniture was strangely shaking before her dry
eyes, and additional images were being projected on the interier. The images of
She saw herself singing Margarita, on that disastrous evening of her
disappearance from the stage. She saw herself whispering to Meg in her
dressing-room. She saw herself walking the streets leading from the Opera to
Mamma Valerius' house...
Suddenly a thought occured to her.
She came up to her wardrobe and began picking up the things and putting them in
a small luggage sack.
And now she decided to find Charles a music teacher!
They boy was undoubtely musical, he hummed the Swedish folk songs with extreme
correctness and pitch, and tried to play the big concert piano standing in the
drawing-room. The piano was there just because it was fashionable and considered
necessary for a foreign aristocrat to have by any local nobles. But before
Charles began tinkering with it no one had ever played it.
There was nothing undecent for an aristocrat to know music. He himself had took
his violin lessons from Christine's father in his childhood. But now... here...
Raoul definitely didn't want his son learning to play.
He listened, trying to discern Christine's steps. But all seemed to be quiet.
Maybe it was all right. After all, it was their first quarrel in all ten years
of their marriage.
She was a woman, after all; and women easily forget and forgive. She would calm
down and return to him to breach the gap in the otherways perfect house of their
love, and everything will be all right. She would understand, and if not, she
would finally have just to accept his will not to teach Charles music.
Raoul heard a door open and close, and then Christine's steps and the steps of
Francois, their lackey. Christine went to the outway door.
'Perhaps she decided to walk, to have some fresh air,' - decided Raoul. It was
all right, and he began working with his recent accounts.
He had forbidden her to sing, and now he wants to forbid Charles to learn music!
Christine didn't wish to force any skill to her children. She had asked the
nine-year Charles if he wanted to learn music, and when the child understood
what that would mean he agreed happily. He craved to master the piano, all its
gross white and black keyboard, to know the mysteries of the magical sound and
be able to produce any music he wanted from the instrument. Charles was bright,
as his parents had been as children. He was studying well and easily, and music
studies wouldn't be too heavy for him. And of course they could afford the music
But Raoul forbade her to teach him music!
Christine was breathing hard, going along the alley of their estate, followed by
their lackey carrying her sack. She felt as if she was terribly short of air.
But she was outdoors in the country - what was it?
Suddenly she understood. Of course she had known it all the time and it was just
that now it was impossible to deceive herself anymore.
She had got used to put her emotions in singing...
And now most of all she wanted to sing out her tumulted feelings, but she
couldn't. Ten years out of practice would undo even the most genius voice. The
one who had once Christine Daae, the wonder of the Parisian stage, just couldn't
produce any singing sound anymore...
Raoul heard the door opening and closing and decided that it was ok, Christine
returned and would come to dinner as always.
But she didn't arrive at the table.
Raoul came to her door and knocked.
No one answered.
"Christine? Christine, it's me. I've come to apologise. It's just that I'm
terribly afraid of music, that I don't want Charles to study it. I was wrong in
wronging you. Christine, please admit me, I would like to apologise..."
Raoul undecisively tried the door, and it opened easily. Raoul entered
It was empty.
"Francois, did you accompany madame on her walk?"
"Didn't she return with you?"
"Where did you leave her?" - frowned Raoul.
"On the road, Monsieur. Don't worry, I've helped her to the carriage to Stokholm."
"She left for Stokholm, monsieur."
"And you didn't tell me?"
"You didn't ask, Monsieur."
Raoul rubbed his forehead. What for on the earth Christine went for Stokholm?
She had never had any business or aquaintances there. Maybe something was wrong
with her head? Then he was far too guiltier than he thought. Damn, how could he
have insulted her so? Damned aristocratic pride...
For the very first time in their life Raoul had showed his wife that he was
aware of the social difference between them. And did it in such a manner he
himself wouldn't consider decent, while being calm. Aristocratic temper... Be
she more versed in it, she would understand. But she never had dealt with
aristocrats, excluding him, before marrying him, and all the ten years of his
marriage he had been very restrained about such things. Only one lapse - and
He ordered to prepare his horse.
He would follow her to Stokholm.
Christine was sitting at the railway station. It was raining - a grey, whining
day was slowly retreating into the shadows of twilight, preparing to transform
itself to the wet and cold evening. It was the land of her childhood where she
had travelled with her father, and often they didn't have shelter from rains
Now she felt almost like then, sitting alone in the vast, almost empty hall,
without Raoul, without anyone. She thought of her children, but Charles was
already a big boy and could well look after five-years-old Andre. They would
have a wonderful evening together...
Strange, but the thought of deserted children didn't fill her with guilt. She
supposed it should. She, a mother, left her children only with the briefest
good-bye! Of course, there were servants, governors, teachers and there was
their father, so children wouldn't be without their usual care... but still
wasn't she supposed to miss them now? She couldn't say as she had never left
It wasn't difficult for Raoul to locate the omnibus which had brought Christine
to Stokholm. It was a municipal omnibus, so Comte de Chagny was given the most
precise information about the lady matching his description who had left at the
Puzzled beyond any understanding, Raoul went to the station. Christine wasn't
there, of course. Raoul really didn't know what she was up to and just in case
asked the man at the box-office if the lady who looked so-and-so has bought any
"Yes, of course, there aren't many ladies here, - the clerk said seeing an
obviously rich and noble man. - She had bought a ticket for the evening Paris
train. Had left for a hour ago."
Raoul thanked the man courteously but did it out of habit. His mind began to
reel. What for, damn, Christine decided to return to Paris?
His first impulse was to buy a ticket for the next Paris train, and he even
produced money... but then, standing at the box-office with the money in his
hand and with the expectantly looking clerk before him, he suddenly pushed his
money back in his pocket. Then he left the hall and went to the nearby hotel,
settling there for himself and his horse.
His sleep was troubled with the unclear images of the past.
In the morning he mounted his horse and launched home.
Christine was sitting at the window in her compartment. The service was the best
possible in the train, which meant that she was given reassurances that she
could ask about anything she would like. She nodded in silence to these
reassurances and retired to her compartment, closed the door and sat at the
For the ten years of her marriage to Raoul she had got accustomed to the most
comfortable life of the rich noble lady. There couldn't be an idea that she
would shake in a casual municipal omnibus to get to the city - there would be a
personal carriage, soft seats, servants and, of course, Raoul's never-ceasing
protection. She presumed that was it - she could grow tired of his endless
protection, of his endless presence. Everywhere - day and night, in her house or
outdoors, in her room, in her bed, in her life, in her breath...
But this was the very idea of love she had always had. How could it seem wrong?
Why wasn't she missing his comforting hands now, in the loneliness of the night
Of course she didn't blame him for his words, really. He would never think of
her having had affairs with other men. He knew about her only affair, and knew
Christine supposed - in fact, she knew - that Raoul had sacrificed much for
marrying her. His position in the Parisian society, his ties to his relatives,
his respect, his reputation. And she knew that he felt that loss, thought never
really mourned it or reprimanded her for it. She felt uncomfortable about it,
but he asked her never to return to that matter because he loved her most of all
and in any case was glad to have her as his wife.
And she loved him enough to agree to these terms, really very light terms,
because most of all she wanted to become his wife and forget about her terrible
Raoul returned home tired and morbid. He ordered Francois to bring him dinner to
his study, and when it was done, he suddenly told him to fetch wine.
"And brandy, - he added. - Enough brandy."
Christine was returning to Paris. What could wait for her there? Nothing but the
recollection of the horrible story she had been the unvoluntary participant of.
And he, Raoul, really loved her very much to be able almost to forget everything
she was related to in his mind...
The terrible way throught the cellars... the torture chamber... the powder
barrels... the nightmarish seconds of choice... the dungeon... the feeling of
complete unability to do anything, of being completely at the mercy of another,
and he really couldn't say many kind words about this another...
Christine understood very well that it was hard for Raoul to hear her sing. It
reminded him of the cellars... and of the torture chamber... and of the feeling
of the complete unability to do anything...
So she had agreed not to sing, and thus they became a perfect young loving pair.
Of course the scars had stung, but only for some time, and then they found the
new friends, the new land, the new activities, and the past began to melt in the
mist of forgetfulness... and then Charles was born, and she dedicated herself
fully to him and then to Andre, and there was no place in her life for regrets
about her lost art.
Raoul gulped the brandy. The dence drink burned his unaccustomed throat, but
somehow his feelings of locked despair began to shift.
She was such a good mother! Such a wonderful wife! Any aristocrat could say she
was noble-born, Raoul himself never could find any vulgarity or ignorance in
her. She was the pride of his life, his perfect jewel, and she was his only
passion, the only woman he ever craved in life.
Why had she decided to return to Paris?
She was admired by everyone. The perfect mother, the unblemished beauty, the
ideal wife, the brilliant housekeeper, the ideal lady of society...
She bit her lip. That was it!
She felt her throat tighten.
What did it mean to be the perfect mother? That meant always to be by her
What did it mean to be the unblemished beauty? It meant to have perfect looks.
What did it mean to be the ideal wife? Well... to fulfill the vows of fidelity
and her wife's duty.
The brilliant housekeeper...
The ideal lady of society...
Everything she had been being for all these ten years was just to be present in
the appointed time at the appointed place and do the appointed actions. No
more... Just like an animated doll. The perfect mannequin with her looks, voice
and physical abilities. No more.
And she didn't like to be a mannequin...
The key clicked in the rusted lock and turned. There still was a way to the
fountain, to the place where she had once awakened up to her horror and her
Christine passed the lond dark underground passage. She wasn't afraid, though
anyone would say she should. But she knew that the only real danger of these
cellars was now in the past, and as she had seen that danger very close, any
imaginable terrors would only make her laugh.
The passade sloped down, the air became heavier, more damp. The ground was
slightly slippery under her feet. Christine had walked this way so many times
that she knew precisely where every slightest turn was, where it was necessary
to be careful not to fall and how many steps there were from the iron gates to
the small fountain. She could walk this way even in profound darkness, but the
flickering candle in her hand made her the visiting queen.
There was that fountain at the stone wall. Christine put the candle on the
bricks and slowly made three steps aside from it. Nothing marked that place,
nothing could tell that it was somehow different from any other place on the
cellar ground. Of all the living only Christine knew what the place was. It was
a grave, and there slept the man to whom Christine came now.
She looked down, and suddenly all her calm restrain gave in. She couldn't say
why, she didn't try to explain it to herself. She came here by impulse, knowing
that coming here she would get all the answers - and she got them.
Christine, overwhelmed with tears, fell on the grave, clawing dirt with her
fingers and completely forgetting about soiling her dress.
"Forgive me... forgive me for killing you!" - she sobbed.
There was such profound silence that Christine unvoluntary listened. But no
answer came, either mundane or preternatural, as she was lying there on the
grave of the man whom she had doomed to death ten years earlier, the man who had
loved her so much that threatened to kill her knowing that he couldn't bear to
lose her. She still could feel his tears on her hands.
There had been tears for both of them, tears and music. He was giving her his
soul with open hands, be that his music or his love, and she drank greedily from
the endless source of his spirit and talent. She could give him nothing in
return, of course - nothing but fear and death.
"Erik..." - the faintest whisper, barely audible even for herself.
He had been a magician, he had ruled all the shadows of the enormous Opera
House, his power seemed unlimited. She wouldn't be too surprised if he would
answer her now. But she knew she wouldn't hear the answer. As powerful as he had
been, death was still more powerful.
"Erik, forgive me, I didn't understand you, - she whispered to the cool ground.
- I didn't understand your love. I thought Raoul was my walls of safety, my
source of warmness, the very soul destined to make me whole. But he loves only
the outside of me. You loved my soul and spirit, you wanted to cherish and
nurture them. It was the love I had never known of... and I was afraid of you.
Raoul is afraid of music, Erik! He's afraid of the fact that I have a soul and
spirit! He'd like to threw them away from me, he doesn't know what to do with
She was lying on the unmarked grave, listening to the past and absorbing the
emptiness of present. Strangely, but this was what she needed now.
"You didn't give me just my voice, Erik. You gave me myself. You taught me to
think and understand. And I... I was so scared that I tried to forget everything
you've taught me - and I succeeded! Erik, I succeded! I have no voice any more!"
The darkness embraced Christine like some gentle, velvet blanket, trying to
comfort her with its soft, unfeelable touches.
"I'm not myself any more. Killing you I've killed myself. I never existed
outside my art, we both knew it, only I didn't want to admit! Oh Erik, without
you I'm nothing... The so-called 'happy' life sucked even the small bits of art
you have taught me out of my soul. What I wouldn't give now to be able to
continue our lessons!"
For a long time she was lying there, sobbing in the lonely silence of darkness.
Then she raised, cleaned off as much soil from her dress as she could, and left
The Opera House loomed in the evening darkness. Nobody paid any attention to
her. She supposed no one was remembering the name of Christine Daae yet, and
that was for the best. Was there in the Opera anyone who still remembered the
The door of de Chagny's house opened. Raoul hurried there and was confronted by
a very calm and reserved Christine.
He had decided that if she returned soon he wouldn't say any bitter words to
her. Everything would be as if she visited her relatives.
"Hello, - he said, kissing her impassionate hand. - I trust you had a good
"Yes, very good, - Christine said, immediately catching the game. - A little
tired, though. Is there hot water in the bath?"
"I suppose it will be, soon. Francois! Pierre! Hot water for the mistress,
That night Christine was lying in her bed alone. The moonlight whispered the
unhearable words into her face and hair, until she closed the curtains and lay
in complete darkness. Later she half-opened her eyes, aware that the candle on
the table was burning, giving the room its soft, half-winning radiance.
He was sitting on the table, with his back to her, dressed as always in his
dress-suit, cloak and hat.
"It's never too late, - he said, and it was unmistakably his voice. - I forgive
you for killing me, I'm very glad you've appreciated me at last."
She looked, fascinated, at the man who had died for love for her.
"All right, I can't teach you any more, now that I'm dead, - he continued
calmly. - But as you cried so movingly about having lost yourself, I'd like to
ask you: where have you put everything I taught you? Do you really think it
doesn't exist simply because you had tried to forget it purposefully?"
"I don't know, - she whispered understanding that he was waiting for the answer.
- If you say it does exist I'll try to find it."
"Remember your lessons, step by step, from the very first ones, - Erik
continued. - From the simplest exercises, elementary vocalises. Hire an
accompanist or just use your memory of my playing. You will see that your voice
returns to you. And when you remember... then from the height of your own art
you will be able to find the way that your soul really wants to follow."
Christine understood that was all he wanted to tell her. But he was sitting with
his back to her still. She supposed it was because he was unmasked and didn't
want to frighten her once again with his appearance.
"Erik, please, turn to me, - she asked. - I'd like to see you."
He shook his head.
"I've seen you, - she reminded him. - I've even kissed you. Why are you afraid
to show me your face?"
"If I turn to you now, you won't recognize me," - he said.
Christine awoke with a start, the dawn weakly creeping through the curtains.
She slowly raised, slightly shivering in her nightgown, and whispered a prayer
to the Holy Virgin. Oh how Christine needed her guidance now...
In the morning Christine, while waiting for breakfast, heard the delicate
tapping at the door.
"Yes? Come in, Raoul."
The named person came in.
"Christine, I want to tell you... I'm awfully sorry for what I told you that day
you left. I was thouroughly wrong. You see it was the music... I'm terribly
afraid of music. But if you want it... I'll find the musical teacher for
Christine smiled weakly at him.
"Thank you, Raoul. I know you're really a good man. Otherwise I wouldn't marry
Raoul, feeling forgiven, stepped up to Christine and tried to embrace her. She
reached up to him, but suddenly turned her palms and the gesture of acceptance
became the gesture of rejection.
"Raoul, Raoul... please, not now. There's breakfast soon, and then I suppose I
need to attend to the children. I've missed them. There will be the night..."
Raoul accepted it all with a slight puzzled frown, but Christine's words were
Raoul de Chagny was not at all glad to discover that Christine was re-studying
He told her about it, but she answered with measured calmness that she was not
his slave and was free to pass her free time as she wanted. Since she remained
the ideal mother, the perfect wife and so on, Raoul couldn't say anything
against her ideas of passing her free time and had to reconcile with her scales
Scales and vocalises, the breath exercises... Range, intonation, force... Step
by step Christine reconstructed all the lessons Erik had given to her. Step by
step, thouroughly, with all the precise details. She was surprised how she could
remember these lessons so precisely, but then again, Erik had been such a
personality who made those around him to use their abilities on the full scale,
Step by step, she felt her voice slowly returning to her, first just in some
notes, then in simplest scales, and soon she could already sing the easy soprano
But that was not enough for her. Another month of remembering, and she knew she
could sind Margarita as wonderfully as she had done it ten years before. Her
late professor still was with her, he continued to live in her memory, she could
hear his words in her mind. Everything the greatest singer and musician who ever
lived had given to his extremely talented pupil was returning to life, all
knowledge, feelings and prowess, all abilities to understand the souls of people
through music and channel them through music also.
All was as Erik had said in her dream.
She remembered all the parts he had studied with her. She knew Elvira, Juliet...
Nobody had ever been able to sing the Queen of the Night as she did. She reveled
in singing in the solitude of her room, in re-acquiring the power of her voice.
But once she reached the point where Erik's lessons had been stopped. There were
many lyrical-coloratura soprano parts she hadn't studied with him, so if she
wanted them she had nothing to remember. But she didn't want to stop.
Christine took a piece of paper, a pencil and for several evenings was sitting
at the table trying to understand how Erik would teach her to sing other desired
parts. Occasionally she made notes on the paper. Occasionally she sand an
uncomprehendable phrase. And then, when she decided she had a distinct idea of
would Erik would say, she ordered the score of 'La Traviata'.
Four months passed. The hired musical tutor was very glad with Charles' progress
and offered also to teach Andre, who was very jealous of the elder brother
playing the majestic instrument. Andre really didn't have the musical gift, but
it is possible for anyone to study music to some extent, the limits here are
only the abilities, will and desire. But he had the real shock when instead of
considering this the Comtesse suddenly asked him to play the aria of Violetta.
The shock was not in the request, of course, but in the fact that the Comtesse
really sang it... and, God, how she sang it!
"Madame, I've never heard anyone singing so..." - the musician began, lowering
his hands, numbed with delight, on the keyboard. But here he saw the terrified
expression of the Count and decided it was more reasonable just to shut his
mouth and never to mention Comtesse de Chagny's musical prowess to anyone.
When the musician got his payment and left, Christine turned to Raoul with her
quiet gentle smile:
"I know you've never heard me singing Violetta. In fact, I never did. I've just
learned it... what's the matter, Raoul? Why do you looking at me with such
"Did you... did you hear yourself?"
"Why, I suppose yes. Otherwise how would I be able to sing it? And what of it? I
don't think I missed the notes so terribly so as to make you terrified..."
"You... you don't understand? - Raoul looked at her with the genuine horror on
his face, never diminishing.
"What must I understand for you not to be terrified, Raoul?"
Raoul opened his mouth. But no sound issued from it, as if from a mouth of a
landed fish. His throat tightened, he tried to say one word, then another...
and, at last, the hoarse whisper:
"Christine, you... No! I don't want to tell you!"
And he ran away, hiding his face in his hands.
Christine remained alone in the drawing-room. The boys did their studies in
their rooms, so no one would bother the lady. She knew Raoul wasn't too happy
with her singing, but she hoped that hearing her singing something she had
learned herself, without Erik's tutelage, Raoul would be able to accept her
singing. Instead of it he was terrified beyond words.
Christine went to Raoul's room and entered it without knocking. Her husband was
lying on his bed, on his back, looking at the ceiling with unseeing eyes.
She sat by his side, took his face in her hands, but he only tensed more. There
was the pure terror in his eyes.
"Raoul, my dear, please forgive me. I didn't mean to scare you. But if you love
me then we need to come to an understanding. I'm sorry, my dear. You see, I
really can't help singing. Once a singer, always a singer. Without singing I
can't live. I am my singing, outside of it I do not exist."
Raoul's lips moved. In a second he mastered his voice and quietly said:
"Then, Christine, you don't exist at all."
She was suprised beyond all her imagination.
But he just turned from her, covered his face with his hands and quietly wept.
Christine stroked his hair, trying to console him, but he whispered:
"Christine, please, leave me now. I beg you. Tomorrow... tomorrow..." - his
voice trailed off.
She shrugged her shoulders and acceded to his request.
The night fell on Sweden. Raoul de Chagny was lying on his bed, fully dressed,
looking in the darkness and once again feeling as if he was in the torture
Christine's voice was superb, her Violetta undoubtely would be a tremendous
success. And not only because of her flawless technics. She possessed the
ability to pass the feelings through her song, to make listeners feel together
with her character, the ability, though rare, being the very epitome of singing.
Only one singer heard by Raoul had ever been able to do it better than she.
Raoul had heard Erik singing twice: first after the Masquerade, when the Phantom
of the Opera lured Christine through the mirror to the subterranian bowels of
the theatre, and the second time when Erik was singing the Requiem Mass for
Raoul's brother, Philippe, whom Erik had just killed. Raoul didn't know for whom
that Mass was, but he was sitting in the torture chamber then, in the mirror
nightmare of the illusionary tropical forest, and was rapidly loosing his
sanity, so he had enough more than suitable backgrount for absorbing Erik's
singing. How he sang!..
And now Raoul heard in Christine's crystal soprano the unmistakable singing
intonations of the Phantom of the Opera.
That man continued to live, he only had been hiding in Christine's soul, bidding
his time. And now Raoul was thrown for ten years back, and he once again was in
the place where the nightmare reigned and where weren't any way out.
Christine fell asleep late that night. And again there was a candle flickering
on the table, and the man in the black cloak and hat was again sitting on the
"Are you glad with your prowess now, Christine?"
"To tell you honestly I'm not. I can not see why my singing scares people."
"Haven't you said that your Raoul was afraid of music?"
"He was afraid of the reminiscences of you. I wanted him to hear that I was able
to sing by myself. He was afraid of it. I don't know what the matter is."
"But you have your ideas, haven't you?"
"Yes. - Amazingly how Erik had always been able to make Christine speak very
frankly to him. - It did occur to me that Raoul... was afraid of me having my
own spirit. And maybe hearing me singing the new part he... was afraid of this?
But why, then, he told me that I didn't exist?"
"You do exist, - and she heard the shadow of the old familiar pain in his calm
voice, - it's me who doesn't."
"Erik... - she tried to touch him, but the fear of shattering the dream made her
snatch her hand off before actually touching. - I... - Tears were welling in her
throat. - Now I do want you to..."
"I know." - He suddenly turned around. The face under his hat was the blinding
glory of light, visible just for a moment. Then everything disappeared in the
harsh reality of awakeness.
After that nocturnal conversation Christine didn't desire to clarify the problem
with Raoul immediately. She felt there was something very fragile, something
that could be destroyed with careless investigation. Let it find a little more
strength, a little more sureness, she decided, and then it would be possible to
study the cause without fear of inflict irrevocable damage with the studying.
It was hard, of course. She felt Raoul was becoming further. But strangely it
didn't scare her. She felt as if it was all right. After all, they had been
married for ten years. It was impossible to keep love as hot, young and
unsatiable as in their early days, of course it was impossible for anyone.
"For anyone but Erik," - Christine suddenly thought.
It could seem strange, but becoming older Christine was beginning to understand
the man who had inspired only terror in her while he lived. Terror and pity.
Maybe she was the only one who had understood him enough to pity him, and for
getting these several moments of pity he practically gave his life, but now,
having acquired some experience and wisdom, Christine was realizing that there
was really much in that man's soul. She had drunk it like the blind child, not
quite understanding what she had and why it was so gorgeous to relish in it. But
now she felt she was beginning to know him, as if she re-acquainted him now,
when neither his deformity nor his outcast position really mattered. And she was
beginning to like her strange, unsubstantial acquaintance...
"How strange, - she thought suddenly, - I could fall in love with him now as if
he were near."
This thought scared her somehow. She changed her dress and, taking the decision
to distract herself from these maddening thoughts, went for a walk with her
It was not easy, of course, to see Raoul's lightless eyes. He was always
correct, faultlessly polite and kind, but he never smiled, never laughed for a
whole week, didn't try to come to her bed. She tried to distract herself from
his unexplicable pain with singing and was succeeding greatly. The whole
household fascinatedly listened to the greatest soprano ever walking this earth
in mortal shape.
Christine discovered she knew Erik so well now that she could easily hear the
words he would tell her. She could imagine the whole dialogues and was surprised
to discover the whole world of knowledge in her inseen companion. They even
could laugh together, though Christine had never heard Erik laughing of joy
while he was alive.
Meanwhile Raoul lost all his joy. Christine pitied him and wanted to help him
but he always eluded her questions and suggestions.
"All right, - she said finally, coming to his room once in the evening and
finding him on his bed in his depressed state again, - I won't ever sing! I see
I am just killing you somehow with my singing!"
"Aren't you glad of it?" - Raoul asked.
"Me? Raoul, what are you speaking about? How can I be glad to see that being
myself means killing my love?"
Raould suddenly straightened. His eyes were flaming of rage.
"You don't love me, Christine! You don't love anyone anymore. You've deserted
even your children. They've already ceased to ask me why their mother doesn't
love them. You love only yourself and your singing. Yes you pity me but that's
the only feeling I can inspire in you now! If I didn't know better I would say
you love him!"
"Whom?" - she asked, shrinking back from his shouting.
"Him, your teacher, your priceless Angel of Music, your deformed admirer, your
Phantom of the Opera! But you are not able to love me living, so I don't think
you're able to love him dead!"
Christine realised she was deeply insulted. Were she younger she would cry or
speak something like 'you will come to me to ask my forgiveness, and I'll give
it to you.' But now she knew that he wouldn't come, and, actually, he didn't
have the point.
Everything was crystal clear to her now. She knew where she belonged, and
Raoul's blaming her in being unable to love only snapped the last of her bonds.
She looked calmly at her husband.
"Him? The man I killed ten years ago for your sake? Of course I love him."
That night Christine didn't hope to see the flickering candle. And still it was
"Do you really? - Erik asked, and there were constrained tears in the depths of
his fathomless voice. - Do you?"
"Yes, - Christine answered, smiling. - To be myself means to love you, it's as
simple as this. But I have been a very silly girl, I've understood it only now.
But, as you've said, it's never too late."
"It's never too late, - Erik answered. - Death really changed nothing in me, it
only relieved me of human hate. I love you as I loved you in life. There's
nothing to be afraid here if you only have been true to yourself. Now when you
know me, do you care to come to me, to sing for me?"
"First you sing for me."
"To prove it's really you."
Erik smiled. As he was sitting with his back to her she couldn't, of course, see
his smile, but she was sure he smiled.
He sang as he had never sung before, the deep human passion mingled with the
unearthly glory. But she recognised him. There could be no mistake. No demon, no
deceiving spirit could ever sing so. It was Erik's soul who sang, the trusting,
beautiful soul, unmutilated by all the tortures of his earthly existing.
And Christine joined the melody. She knew he wanted it, and was delighted to
discover that her voice really was good enough to deserve singing this duet.
Death was really nothing for love, now Christine knew it absolutely exactly.
It is never too late...
In the morning Christine didn't come for breakfast. Her husband, who spent all
the night brooding over their plight, went to her room and knocked.
There was no answer.
Full of terror that she had once again left for Paris or something like that,
Raoul burst into the room.
Christine was there, lying in her bed, and Raoul felt great relief for a second.
But he quickly understood that there was something greatly, greatly wrong...
The Count Raoul de Chagny lived to an old age. There was much legendary around
him, the eighty-years-old patriarch of the multiple family. People told that he
had been a sailor, a hero who fought wild monsters in the untamed jungle, that
his wife had been an uncomparable beauty, the pure paragon of woman, and some
people added in whispers that she could sing like an angel. Of course, since his
wife had died suddenly in her sleep from an unknown cause when she was only
about 30, no one could really remember her. But the most exciting was the legend
about how, when the Count found out that his wife was dead, his golden hair
became grey in one minute.
published on Website "Parisian Tale"
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is never too late" выложен с разрешения
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Рассказ выложен на данном сайте 23 апреля 2008г.