The commissary's voice was now heard more distinctly. He was asking for information about the system of lighting, which the stage-manager supplied. The commissary therefore must be in the `organ' or its immediate neighborhood.
Contrary to what one might think, especially in connection with an opera-house, the `organ' is not a musical instrument. At that time, electricity was employed only for a very few scenic effects and for the bells. The immense building and the stage itself were still lit by gas; hydrogen was used to regulate and modify the lighting of a scene; and this was done by means of a special apparatus which, because of the multiplicity of its pipes, was known as the `organ.' A box beside the prompter's box was reserved for the chief gas- man, who from there gave his orders to his assistants and saw that they were executed. Mauclair stayed in this box during all the performances.
But now Mauclair was not in his box and his assistants not in their places.
The stage-manager's voice echoed through the cellars. But Mauclair did not reply.
I have said that a door opened on a little staircase that led to the second cellar. The commissary pushed it, but it resisted.
`I say,' he said to the stage-manager, `I can't open this door: is it always so difficult?'
The stage-manager forced it open with his shoulder. He saw that, at the same time, he was pushing a human body and he could not keep back an exclamation, for he recognized the body at once:
`Mauclair! Poor devil! He is dead!'
But Mr. Commissary Mifroid, whom nothing surprised, was stooping over that big body.
`No,' he said, `he is dead-drunk, which is not quite the same thing.'
`It's the first time, if so,' said the stage-manager
`Then some one has given him a narcotic. That is quite possible.'
Mifroid went down a few steps and said:
By the light of a little red lantern, at the foot of the stairs, they saw two other bodies. The stage-manager recognized Mauclair's assistants. Mifroid went down and listened to their breathing.
`They are sound asleep,' he said. `Very curious business! Some person unknown must have interfered with the gas-man and his staff...and that person unknown was obviously working on behalf of the kidnapper....But what a funny idea to kidnap a performer on the stage!...Send for the doctor of the theater, please.' And Mifroid repeated, `Curious, decidedly curious business!'
Then he turned to the little room, addressing the people whom Raoul and the Persian were unable to see from where they lay.
`What do you say to all this, gentlemen? You are the only ones who have not given your views. And yet you must have an opinion of some sort.'
Thereupon, Raoul and the Persian saw the startled faces of the joint managers appear above the landing - and they heard Moncharmin's excited voice:
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