No later light has lightened up my heaven
No second morn has ever shone for me
All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given
All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee
From "Remembrance" by Emily Bronte
Much later, after the doctor had been summoned and Christine had been put to bed, Raoul strolled outside the house on to the front lawn, his sorrowful gaze barely taking in the estate that he loved. He badly needed some fresh air, and some time to think. Why has this happened? What has happened to her, to our marriage? Married only a few weeks and now..
He looked around. Madame Giry and Meg had joined him, although he hadn't noticed at first and they had been loath to disturb his thoughts.
"She's sleeping peacefully now. We stayed with her for a little while, after the doctor left." Madame Giry told him gently.
"Thank you. Thank you both so much…" His voice trailed off.
"What happens now?" he asked, trying to sound braver than he felt.
"I don't know. I wish I knew more about these matters. Physical illness, yes, after all these years looking after my girls at the Opera House, but this…"
All three were silent for a long time.
"Please, will you both join me for some tea?" His voice was weary. They returned to the drawing room and Annette brought tea to them promptly, but silence still reigned over the little group. Indeed, what could they have said?
After a long time, Raoul looked up at them.
"I just don't understand," he began, in a choked voice. "Erik of all people, after all he did to us! After all he did to her… The man was a deranged murderer, didn't she realise that? Joseph Buquet, Piangi... He tried to kill me, I'm sure he would have gone through with it.. And all those demands and blackmail… Why can't she remember that?"
Madame Giry hesitated before answering. All of this was far outside her experience as a ballet mistress. She did, however, have some understanding of human nature. And she had known Christine a long time, after all.
"Perhaps she only remembers what she wants to remember. I remember after her father died, she only remembered his good aspects. Perhaps she is doing the same now."
Meg was silent throughout. My best friend she thought sadly. I had no idea. I wish I could understand. She must have been so happy, planning her "future" with Erik and now… "Poor Christine" she whispered. Her mother and the Vicomte turned to look at her.
"She was happy, believing Erik was alive."
"Yes, but it was a lie" Madame Giry told her firmly, "She could not have gone on deceiving herself. I only hope she will accept it now, for good."
She turned to Raoul again. "You say that your parents are still on holidays?"
"Yes, they will be home in a few days. I have no idea what to tell them. They did not exactly approve of our marriage in the first place."
Silence descended on the room once more, as the two women left Raoul to his thoughts.
A little later, Raoul went to see the two women off. He had insisted on them taking the carriage back to their apartment in Paris, telling them that it was the least he could do. He watched the carriage disappear down the drive with sadness in his heart, for he knew that he was truly alone now. Madame Giry's parting words were haunting him. "Erik was a monster but he was also a human being, just remember that. I knew him for a very long time. He gave Christine so much. Who knows how any of us would have turned out, if we had had his life?"
He looked around. Those bushes need to be cut right back. That tree needs to be pruned. I need to call on the tenants again. Anything to avoid thinking about Christine. One of the gardener's boys was plucking apples from one of the trees in the orchard and throwing them carefully into a large wicker basket. Looks like apple pudding for dessert. His favourite. Usually.
Suddenly, as he turned to go back into the house, he became aware of a presence nearby. It was Pierre.
"Good afternoon sir" he greeted him, with a little less of his normal timidity.
The head gardener took a few steps towards him, a little uncertain now.
"I just wanted to say.. how very sorry I am about your wife".
News spreads like wildfire on this estate. "Thank you. She is resting at the moment."
Both felt awkward now. They were not exactly used to having substantial conversations after all. Raoul recalled how, as a boisterous child, he had run through Pierre's flower beds and accidentally hit a tennis ball through his greenhouse. And yet, when he had fallen from a tree and broken his arm, Pierre had carried him into the house and alerted his parents, who had sent for the doctor. This, despite the fact that the gardener had told him not to climb the tree in the first place.
They looked at each other now, and Pierre was not looking at him with servility or deference but with sympathy.
"I knew something was wrong, that time that I saw her talking to herself... You see, my sister went the.. I mean, the same thing happened to her, years ago, when her little boy died. She was never quite the same afterwards."
"I'm so sorry, Pierre, I had no idea."
"No.. well it was a long time ago, as I said. She's long dead now. But I know a little of how you must feel."
How little we know about our servants… "Thank you Pierre, I truly appreciate that." And the two men, servant and employer, shook hands.
A week later, Madame Bosonnet was hosting the weekly game of bridge for the ladies of the parish. And she had made it her business to know about the latest subject of local gossip. At the end of the first hand, she laid down her cards with a satisfied air.
"Well I don't know about any of you," she began, "but I knew from the start there was something not quite right about that girl. Had her head in the clouds, no question about it. Always seemed to be somewhere else, wouldn't you agree? And anyway, those Scandinavians are such an odd race."
"Yes, that's always been my opinion too" said Madame le Crousert, who had never given the matter a moment's thought in her life.
"Oh, mine too" they all chorused, eager to agree with their hostess.
All except Mlle Beaumont, her sister, who was sitting quietly in the corner. She joined in the next game half-heartedly, but did not seem to be following the conversation. At last, she spoke up.
"I thought Christine was perfectly charming" she them quietly. Then, seeing she had their attention, her confidence grew.
"Don't you see? She was little more than a child. She arrived into this...world, a completely different world than what she was used to. It must have been very intimidating for her, yet none of us did anything to help her. Myself included."
The last sentence was uttered with such sadness and regret that everyone stared at her.
"Excuse me," she announced, putting down her cards, and leaving the room.
The atmosphere was decidedly awkward after that.
The following day, Raoul watched sadly as his wife sat on the bed in the spotlessly clean room. He had helped her unpack and had placed their framed wedding photograph on the small table. She was humming a familiar melody to herself, but he was trying not to think about that.
"Look, dear, your room overlooks the gardens! Don't they look lovely?"
He gestured to her, and she rose slowly, making her way over to the window.
"The roses and chrysanthemums are in bloom. They really are colourful, aren't they?"
She nodded timidly, still humming. You alone can make my song take flight.. she sang wistfully.
Trying to distract himself, he looked around at the well-tended gardens. Some of the other patients were outside, sitting on benches or being accompanied on a stroll by nuns in white habits.
"It's all very beautiful here. The nuns seem very kind, don't they?"
She looked at him, her song having thankfully come to an end.
"Yes.." she whispered, gazing out of the window.
He led her back to her bed as the head of the hospital entered. This was Dr Joubert's sister, now known as Sister Marie Therese, and he was glad that the doctor had recommended this place.
"I'll come back and visit you very soon, darling" he promised her sadly, kissing her cheek and departing the room. He followed the nun down the scrupulously clean corridor and down the stairs.
"Your wife will be well looked after here, sir!" she told him, in a tone as brisk as her walking pace. She was clearly glad to have the wife of such a high profile man as a patient. "All my nurses are efficient yet caring, and everything is run to the highest of standards. Fresh food, cleanliness, exercise…. Yes, things are changing for the better, sir, in these establishments!"
"Thank you, sister. I can see you run a tight ship here"
"Indeed. Rest assured your wife will be back to normal soon".
Normal? She is in love with a lunatic. A dead lunatic… But she believes everyone can be redeemed and who knows, perhaps he was, at the end?
After bidding farewell to the good sister, Raoul made to return to his carriage, which was waiting for him. Just before he climbed into it, he turned to look up and saw Christine's pale, gaunt face at the window. He waved to her and smiled. Slowly, she waved back, managing to smile weakly at him. But he knew from those distant, dreamy eyes that she was not thinking of him, but of someone else… a demon, a monster, but most of all an utterly tragic man, who lay buried beneath the Opera House but who would haunt them both until they died.