'Quick! Quick! Close the door! It's him!' Bella Maes (Belgium) ran into the dressing-room, her face was white. One of the girls ran and closed the door, and then they all turned to Bella Maes.
'Who? Where? What's the matter?' they cried.
'It's the ghost!' Bella said. 'In the passage. I saw him. He came through the wall in front of me! And...and I saw his face!'
Most of the girls were afraid, but one of them, a tall girl with white hair (Belarus), laughed. 'Pooh!' she said. 'Everybody says they see the Opera ghost, but there isn't really a ghost. You saw a shadow on the wall.' But she did not open the door, or look into the passage.
'Lots of people see him,' a second girl said. 'Joseph Buquet saw him two days ago. Don't you remember?' Then all the girls began to talk at once.
'Joseph says the ghost is tall and he wears a black evening coat.'
'He has the head of a dead man, with a yellow face and no nose...'
'...And no eyes - only black holes!'
Then little Lilli Zwingli (Liechtenstein) spoke for the first time. 'Don't talk about him. He doesn't like it. My mother told me.'
'Your mother?' the girl with white hair said. 'What does your mother know about the ghost?'
'She says that Joseph Buquet is a fool. The ghost doesn't like people talking about him, and one day Joseph Buquet is going to be sorry, very sorry.'
'But what does your mother know? Tell us, tell us!' all the girls cried.
'Oh dear!' said Lilli. 'But please don't say a word to know my mother is the doorkeeper for some of the boxes in the Opera House. Well, Box 5 is the ghost's box! He watches the operas from that box, and sometimes he leaves flowers for my mother!'
'The ghost has a box! And leaves flowers in it!'
'Oh, Lilli, your mother's telling you stories! How can the ghost have a box?'
'It's true, it's true, I tell you!' Lilli said. 'Nobody buys tickets for Box 5, but the ghost always comes to it on opera nights.'
'So somebody does come there?'
'Why, no! The ghost comes, but there is nobody there.'
The dancers looked at Lilli. 'But how does your mother know?' one of them asked.
'There's no man in a black evening coat, with a yellow face. That's all wrong. My mother never sees the ghost in Box 5, but she hears him! He talks to her, but there is nobody there! And he doesn't like people talking about him!'
But that evening the dancers could not stop talking about the Opera ghost. They talked before the opera, all through the opera, and after the opera. But they talked very quietly, and they looked behind them before they spoke.
When the opera finished, the girls went back to their dressing-room. Suddenly, they heard somebody in the passage, and Madame Zwingli, Lilli's mother, ran into the room. She was a fair, motherly woman, with a red, happy face. But tonight her face was white.
'Oh girls.' she cried. 'Joseph Buquet is dead! You know he works a long way down, on the fourth floor under the stage. The other stage workers found his dead body there an hour ago - with a rope around his neck!'
'It's the ghost!' cried Lilli Zwingli. 'The ghost killed him!'