But perhaps it was not the eleven o'clock of which we stood in dread. Perhaps we had still twelve hours before us!

Suddenly, I exclaimed: `Hush!'

I seemed to hear footsteps in the next room. Some one tapped against the wall. Christine Daaé's voice said:

`Raoul! Raoul!' We were now all talking at once, on either side of the wall. Christine sobbed; she was not sure that she would find M. de Chagny alive. The monster had been terrible, it seemed, had done nothing but rave, waiting for her to give him the `yes' which she refused. And yet she had promised him that `yes,' if he would take her to the torture-chamber. But he had obstinately declined, and had uttered hideous threats against all the members of the human race! At last, after hours and hours of that hell, he had that moment gone out, leaving her alone to reflect for the last time.

`Hours and hours? What is the time now? What is the time, Christine?'

`It is eleven o'clock! Eleven o'clock, all but five minutes!'

`But which eleven o'clock?'

`The eleven o'clock that is to decide life or death! ... He told me so just before he went.... He is terrible.... He is quite mad: he tore off his mask and his yellow eyes shot flames! ... He did nothing but laugh! ... He said, `I give you five minutes to spare your blushes! Here,' he said, taking a key from the little bag of life and death, `here is the little bronze key that opens the two ebony caskets on the mantelpiece in the Louis-Philippe room.... In one of the caskets, you will find a scorpion, in the other, a grasshopper, both very cleverly imitated in Japanese bronze: they will say yes or no for you. If you turn the scorpion round, that will mean to me, when I return, that you have said yes. The grasshopper will mean no.' And he laughed like a drunken demon. I did nothing but beg and entreat him to give me the key of the torture- chamber, promising to be his wife if he granted me that request.... But he told me that there was no future need for that key and that he was going to throw it into the lake! ... And he again laughed like a drunken demon and left me. Oh, his last words were, `The grasshopper! Be careful of the grasshopper! A grasshopper does not only turn: it hops! It hops! And it hops jolly high!''

The five minutes had nearly elapsed and the scorpion and the grasshopper were scratching at my brain. Nevertheless, I had sufficient lucidity left to understand that, if the grasshopper were turned, it would hop ... and with it many members of the human race! There was no doubt but that the grasshopper controlled an electric current intended to blow up the powder-magazine!

M. de Chagny, who seemed to have recovered all his moral force from hearing Christine's voice, explained to her, in a few hurried words, the situation in which we and all the Opera were. He told her to turn the scorpion at once.

There was a pause.

`Christine,' I cried, `where are you?'

`By the scorpion.'

`Don't touch it!'

The idea had come to me - for I knew my Erik - that the monster had perhaps deceived the girl once more. Perhaps it was the scorpion that would blow everything up. After all, why wasn't he there? The five minutes were long past ... and he was not back.... Perhaps he had taken shelter and was waiting for the explosion! ... Why had he not returned? ... He could not really expect Christine ever to consent to become his voluntary prey! ... Why had he not returned?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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