Mamma Valérius turned a terrified face to Christine, who had already run to her adopted mother and was holding her in her arms.

`Don't believe him, mummy, don't believe him,' she repeated.

`Then tell me that you will never leave me again,' implored the widow.

Christine was silent and Raoul resumed.

`That is what you must promise, Christine. It is the only thing that can reassure your mother and me. We will undertake not to ask you a single question about the past, if you promise us to remain under our protection in future.'

`That is an undertaking which I have not asked of you and a promise which I refuse to make you!' said the young girl haughtily. `I am mistress of my own actions, M. de Chagny: you have no right to control them, and I will beg you to desist henceforth. As to what I have done during the last fortnight, there is only one man in the world who has the right to demand an account of me: my husband! Well, I have no husband and I never mean to marry!'

She threw out her hands to emphasize her words and Raoul turned pale, not only because of the words which he had heard, but because he had caught sight of a plain gold ring on Christine's finger.

`You have no husband and yet you wear a wedding-ring.'

He tried to seize her hand, but she swiftly drew it back.

`That's a present!' she said, blushing once more and vainly striving to hide her embarrassment.

`Christine! As you have no husband, that ring can only have been given by one who hopes to make you his wife! Why deceive us further? Why torture me still more? That ring is a promise; and that promise has been accepted!'

`That's what I said!' exclaimed the old lady.

`And what did she answer, madame?'

`What I chose,' said Christine, driven to exasperation. `Don't you think, monsieur, that this cross-examination has lasted long enough? As far as I am concerned...'

Raoul was afraid to let her finish her speech. He interrupted her:

`I beg your pardon for speaking as I did, mademoiselle. You know the good intentions that make me meddle, just now, in matters which, you no doubt think, have nothing to do with me. But allow me to tell you what I have seen - and I have seen more than you suspect, Christine - or what I thought I saw, for, to tell you the truth, I have sometimes been inclined to doubt the evidence of my eyes.'

`Well, what did you see, sir, or think you saw?'

`I saw your ecstasy at the sound of the voice, Christine: the voice that came from the wall or the next room to yours...yes, your ecstasy! And that is what makes me alarmed on your behalf. You are under a very dangerous spell. And yet it seems that you are aware of the imposture, because you say to-day that there is no Angel of Music! In that case, Christine, why did you follow him that time? Why did you stand up, with radiant features, as though you were really hearing angels?...Ah, it is a very dangerous voice, Christine, for I myself, when I heard it, was so much fascinated by it that you vanished before my eyes without my seeing which way you passed! Christine, Christine, in the name of Heaven, in the name of your father who is in Heaven now and who loved you so dearly and who loved me too, Christine,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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