`Mauclair is not to be found!' repeated Mercier, taken aback. `Well, what about his assistants?'

`There's no Mauclair and no assistants! No one at the lights, I tell you! You can imagine,' roared the stage-manager, `that that little girl must have, been carried off by somebody else: she didn't run away by herself! It was a calculated stroke and we have to find out about it....And what are the managers doing all this time? ... I gave orders that no one was to go down to the lights and I posted a fireman in front of the gas-man's box beside the organ. Wasn't that right?'

`Yes, yes, quite right, quite right. And now let's wait for the commissary.'

The stage-manager walked away, shrugging his shoulders, fuming, muttering insults at those milksops who remained quietly squatting in a corner while the whole theater was topsyturvy{sic}.

Gabriel and Mercier were not so quiet as all that. Only they had received an order that paralyzed them. The managers were not to be disturbed on any account. Rémy had violated that order and met with no success.

At that moment he returned from his new expedition, wearing a curiously startled air.

`Well, have you seen them?' asked Mercier.

`Moncharmin opened the door at last. His eyes were starting out of his head. I thought he meant to strike me. I could not get a word in; and what do you think he shouted at me? `Have you a safety-pin?' `No!' `Well, then, clearout!' I tried to tell him that an unheard-of thing had happened on the stage, but he roared, `A safety-pin! Give me a safety-pin at once!' A boy heard him - he was bellowing like a bull - ran up with a safety-pin and gave it to him; whereupon Moncharmin slammed the door in my face, and there you are!'

`And couldn't you have said, `Christine Daaé.''

`I should like to have seen you in my place. He was foaming at the mouth. He thought of nothing but his safety-pin. I believe, if they hadn't brought him one on the spot, he would have fallen down in a fit!...Oh, all this isn't natural; and our managers are going mad!...Besides, it can't go on like this! I'm not used to being treated in that fashion!'

Suddenly Gabriel whispered:

`It's another trick of O. G.'s.'

Rimy gave a grin, Mercier a sigh and seemed about to speak...but, meeting Gabriel's eye, said nothing.

However, Mercier felt his responsibility increased as the minutes passed without the managers' appearing; and, at last, he could stand it no longer.

`Look here, I'll go and hunt them out myself!'

Gabriel, turning very gloomy and serious, stopped him.

`Be careful what you're doing, Mercier! If they're staying in their office, it's probably because they have to! O. G. has more than one trick in his bag!'

But Mercier shook his head.

`That's their lookout! I'm going! If people had listened to me, the police would have known everything long ago!'

And he went.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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