"Your fear, your terror, all of that is just love and love of the most exquisite kind, the kind which people do not even admit to themselves."
Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, Gaston Leroux
Scene: Christine, having sung La Carlotta's part, has just descended to the Phantom's lair to the first time – but her curiosity has gotten the better of her. We begin after she has unmasked Erik, during what would be in the Webber musical "Music of the Night."
She had reached out with the same motion Mme. Giry exhorted her to use in her penultimate dance for Hannibal – the swoop, graceful, the arc of the hand – and curled her fingers around his cheek, his white cheek: it was only papier-machê, painted to an even matte finish. Then came the down-arc. Then came his face, the swan's wing of his mask flying away. His face... The violent response, the declaration that she must be his for ever...
"I can bear to look at it, Erik," she said, steeling her resolve. She would have called him Monsieur something-or-other, to be politebut she did not know his surname.
Did not know his name! The hilarity of it struck her suddenly, vastly, consuming in a way not unlike Erik's voice was consuming. She was doing what he asked – she had chosen the wedding mass, chosen it of her own free will – and she did not even know what name she was to take. But take his name she must: in a moment of dreadful clarity, as he stood over her and raved about how she had now destroyed all chance of leaving, she had connected his dreadful visage, his lair, his seductions and his roses. I would have a wife to take about on Sundays, and amuse, she could imagine he was thinking. I would have a pretty wife, to cosset and teach – and therefore she would be Madame. – Mme. O.G.!
She laughed and laughed, and the tears she had managed to keep un-spilt came flowing over her cheeks. The laughter was familiar – it was hysterics, the very same that she had felt when she had made her impromptu audition for lead soprano and heard the strange, ethereal voice of an angel burst from her own lips, when she had doubled over unsure of whether she was crying for her father who could not hear her anymore or laughing for the look that would surely pass over La Carlotta's face when she heard little Christine Daaé the chorus girl sing a part meant for her.
But back then she had thought it was her father's spirit, truly, or at least a spirit sent by him, teaching her; she had not imagined this flesh-and-blood-man standing before her, poling her in his boat ever-deeper into the sunken foundations of the theater. And for all his tricks, she began to see – to see that that was where they were, not off in cloud-cuckoo land but in a dystopia of Erik's own making.
Hiccupping, she tried to find her composure once more, raising her eyes to his and seeing in them a steely anger. His anger was the trick: his anger so bitter, so pure. That was what she would have to quench. "I did not mean that laughter cruelly," she said, letting him see her tear-stained face. "I did not."
Kneeling as still as a statue, Christine knew that she looked like an angel: she was not altogether an ingenué. But she did not know whether that would anger him. And for a moment she was afraid that he would cuff her, or lash out in the way that she knew some men did.
"I –" he paused, and she thought that he would be capable of anything in that moment, capable of killing a hundred men if he thought that would do something for her. The stories said that was a great thing, but now she knew it was terrible. The Angel of Music – the Phantom, she corrected herself – was as absolute and inexorable as the sea. "You cannot bear to look at me even now," he said, his voice cold and resigned. "See – " and he turned his head so she could no longer focus only on the unspoiled, handsome half of his face.
"No, see," she said, and opened her doe-eyes wide.