`Madame begs Monsieur le Vicomte to excuse her,' said the servant. `She can only see him in her bedroom, because she can no longer stand on her poor legs.'

Five minutes later, Raoul was ushered into an ill-lit room where he at once recognized the good, kind face of Christine's benefactress in the semi-darkness of an alcove. Mamma Valérius' hair was now quite white, but her eyes had grown no older; never, on the contrary, had their expression been so bright, so pure, so child-like.

`M. de Chagny!' she cried gaily, putting out both her hands to her visitor. `Ah, it's Heaven that sends you here!...We can talk of her.'

This last sentence sounded very gloomily in the young man's ears. He at once asked:

`Madame...where is Christine?'

And the old lady replied calmly:

`She is with her good genius!'

`What good genius?' exclaimed poor Raoul.

`Why, the Angel of Music!'

The viscount dropped into a chair. Really? Christine was with the Angel of Music? And there lay Mamma Valérius in bed, smiling to him and putting her finger to her lips, to warn him to be silent! And she added:

`You must not tell anybody!'

`You can rely on me,' said Raoul.

He hardly knew what he was saying, for his ideas about Christine, already greatly confused, were becoming more and more entangled; and it seemed as if everything was beginning to turn around him, around the room, around that extraordinary good lady with the white hair and forget-me-not eyes.

`I know! I know I can!' she said, with a happy laugh. `But why don't you come near me, as you used to do when you were a little boy? Give me your hands, as when you brought me the story of little Lotte, which Daddy Daaé had told you. I am very fond of you, M. Raoul, you know. And so is Christine too!'

`She is fond of me!' sighed the young man. He found a difficulty in collecting his thoughts and bringing them to bear on Mamma Valérius' `good genius,' on the Angel of Music of whom Christine had spoken to him so strangely, on the death's head which he had seen in a sort of nightmare on the high altar at Perros and also on the Opera ghost, whose fame had come to his ears one evening when he was standing behind the scenes, within hearing of a group of scene-shifters who were repeating the ghastly description which the hanged man, Joseph Buquet, had given of the ghost before his mysterious death.

He asked in a low voice: `What makes you think that Christine is fond of me, madame?'

`She used to speak of you every day.'

`Really?...And what did she tell you?'

`She told me that you had made her a proposal!'

And the good old lady began laughing wholeheartedly. Raoul sprang from his chair, flushing to the temples, suffering agonies.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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