That tragic evening was bad for everybody. Carlotta fell ill. As for Christine Daae, she disappeared after the performance. A fortnight elapsed during which she was seen neither at the Opera nor outside.
Raoul, of course, was the first to be astonished at the prima donna's absence. He wrote to her at Mme. Valerius' flat and received no reply. His grief increased and he ended by being seriously alarmed at never seeing her name on the program. FAUST was played without her.
One afternoon he went to the managers' office to ask the reason of Christine's disappearance. He found them both looking extremely worried. Their own friends did not recognize them: they had lost all their gaiety and spirits. They were seen crossing the stage with hanging heads, care-worn brows, pale cheeks, as though pursued by some abominable thought or a prey to some persistent sport of fate.
The fall of the chandelier had involved them in no little responsibility; but it was difficult to make them speak about it. The inquest had ended in a verdict of accidental death, caused by the wear and tear of the chains by which the chandelier was hung from the ceiling; but it was the duty of both the old and the new managers to have discovered this wear and tear and to have remedied it in time. And I feel bound to say that MM. Richard and Moncharmin at this time appeared so changed, so absent-minded, so mysterious, so incomprehensible that many of the subscribers thought that some event even more horrible than the fall of the chandelier must have affected their state of mind.
In their daily intercourse, they showed themselves very impatient, except with Mme. Giry, who had been reinstated in her functions. And their reception of the Vicomte de Chagny, when he came to ask about Christine, was anything but cordial. They merely told him that she was taking a holiday. He asked how long the holiday was for, and they replied curtly that it was for an unlimited period, as Mlle. Daae had requested leave of absence for reasons of health.
"Then she is ill!" he cried. "What is the matter with her?"
"We don't know."
"Didn't you send the doctor of the Opera to see her?"
"No, she did not ask for him; and, as we trust her, we took her word."
Raoul left the building a prey to the gloomiest thoughts. He resolved, come what might, to go and inquire of Mamma Valerius. He remembered the strong phrases in Christine's letter, forbidding him to make any attempt to see her. But what he had seen at Perros, what he had heard behind the dressing-room door, his conversation with Christine at the edge of the moor made him suspect some machination which, devilish though it might be, was none the less human. The girl's highly strung imagination, her affectionate and credulous mind, the primitive education which had surrounded her childhood with a circle of legends, the constant brooding over her dead father and, above all, the state of sublime ecstasy into which music threw her from the moment that this art was made manifest to her in certain exceptional conditions, as in the churchyard at Perros; all this seemed to him to constitute a moral ground only too favorable for the malevolent designs of some mysterious and unscrupulous person. Of whom was Christine Daae the victim? This was the very reasonable question which Raoul put to himself as he hurried off to Mamma Valerius.
He trembled as he rang at a little flat in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. The door was opened by the maid whom he had seen coming out of Christine's dressing-room one evening. He asked if he could speak to Mme. Valerius. He was told that she was ill in bed and was not receiving visitors.
"Take in my card, please," he said.
The maid soon returned and showed him into a small and scantily furnished drawing-room, in which portraits of Professor Valerius and old Daae hung on opposite walls.
"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 Valerius' 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 Valerius 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 Daae 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 Valerius' "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.
"What's this? Where are you going? Sit down again at once, will you?...Do you think I will let you go like that?...If you're angry with me for laughing, I beg your pardon. .. After all, what has happened isn't your fault. .. Didn't you know?...Did you think that Christine was free?..."
"Is Christine engaged to be married?" the wretched Raoul asked, in a choking voice.
"Why no! Why no!...You know as well as I do that Christine couldn't marry, even if she wanted to!"
The Phantom of the Opera -by- Gaston Leroux