"Thank you, sir." The German shook cordially the hand, which Dagobert had proffered, and, holding it still in his own, he added: "Do one thing, sir--share a bowl of punch with us. We will make that mischief-making Prophet acknowledge that he has been too touchy, and he shall drink to your health." Up to this moment the brute-tamer, enraged at the issue of this scene, for he had hoped that the soldier would accept his challenge, looked on with savage contempt at those who had thus sided against him. But now his features gradually relaxed; and, believing it useful to his projects to hide his disappointment, he walked up to the soldier, and said to him, with a tolerably good grace: "Well, I give way to these gentlemen. I own I was wrong. Your frigid air had wounded me, and I was not master of myself. I repeat, that I was wrong," he added, with suppressed vexation; "the Lord commands humility--and--I beg your pardon." This proof of moderation and regret was highly appreciated and loudly applauded by the spectators. "He asks your pardon; you cannot expect more, my brave fellow?" said one of them, addressing Dagobert. "Come, let us all drink together; we make you this offer frankly--accept it in the same spirit." "Yes, yes; accept it, we beg you, in the name of your pretty little girls," said the stout man, hoping to decide Dagobert by this argument. "Many thanks, gentlemen," replied he, touched by the hearty advances of the Germans; "you are very worthy people. But, when one is treated, he must offer drink in return." "Well, we will accept it--that's understood. Each his turn, and all fair. We will pay for the first bowl, you for the second." "Poverty is no crime," answered Dagobert; "and I must tell you honestly that I cannot afford to pay for drink. We have still a long journey to go, and I must not incur any useless expenses." The soldier spoke these words with such firm, but simple dignity, that the Germans did not venture to renew their offer, feeling that a man of Dagobert's character could not accept it without humiliation. "Well, so much the worse," said the stout man. "I should have liked to clink glasses with you. Good-night, my brave trooper!--Good-night--for it grows late, and mine host of the Falcon will soon turn us out of doors." "Good-night, gentlemen," replied Dagobert, as he directed his steps towards the stable, to give his horse a second allowance of provender. Morok approached him, and said in a voice even more humble than before: "I have acknowledged my error, and asked your pardon. You have not answered me; do you still bear malice?" "If ever I meet you," said the veteran, in a suppressed and hollow tone, "when my children have no longer need of me, I will just say two words to you, and they will not be long ones." Then he turned his back abruptly on the Prophet, who walked slowly out of the yard. The inn of the White Falcon formed a parallelogram. At one end rose the principal dwelling; at the other was a range of buildings, which contained sundry chambers, let at a low price to the poorer sort of travellers; a vaulted passage opened a way through this latter into the country; finally, on either side of the court-yard were sheds and stables, with lofts and garrets erected over them. Dagobert, entering one of these stables, took from off a chest the portion of oats destined for his horse, and, pouring it into a winnowing- basket, shook it as he approached Jovial. To his great astonishment, his old travelling companion did not respond with a joyous neigh to the rustle of the oats rattling on the wicker- work. Alarmed, he called Jovial with a friendly voice; but the animal, instead of turning towards his master a look of intelligence, and impatiently striking the ground with his fore-feet, remained perfectly motionless. More and more surprised, the soldier went up to him. By the dubious light of a stable-lantern, he saw the poor animal in an attitude which implied terror--his legs half bent, his head stretched forward, his ears down, his nostrils quivering; he had drawn tight his halter, as if he wished to break it, in order to get away from the partition that supported his rack and manger; abundant cold-sweat had speckled his hide with bluish stains, and his coat altogether looked dull and bristling, instead of standing out sleek and glossy from the dark background of the stable; lastly, from time to time, his body shook with convulsive starts. "Why, old Jovial!" said the soldier, as he put down the basket, in order to soothe his horse with more freedom, "you are like thy master--afraid! --Yes," he added with bitterness, as he thought of the offence he had himself endured, "you are afraid--though no coward in general." Notwithstanding the caresses and the voice of his master, the horse continued to give signs of terror; he pulled somewhat less violently at his halter, and approaching his nostrils to the hand of Dagobert, sniffed audibly, as if he doubted it were he. "You don't know me!" cried Dagobert. "Something extraordinary must be passing here." The soldier looked around him with uneasiness. It was a large stable, faintly lighted by the lantern suspended from the roof, which was covered with innumerable cobwebs; at the further end, separated from Jovial by some stalls with bars between, were the three strong, black, horses of the brute-tamer--as tranquil as Jovial was frightened. Dagobert, struck with this singular contrast, of which he was soon to have the explanation, again caressed his horse; and the animal, gradually reassured by his master's presence, licked his hands, rubbed his head against him, uttered a low neigh, and gave him his usual tokens of affection. "Come, come, this is how I like to see my old Jovial!" said Dagobert, as he took up the winnowing-basket, and poured its contents into the manger. "Now eat with a good appetite, for we have a long day's march tomorrow; and, above all, no more of these foolish fears about nothing! If thy comrade, Spoil-sport, was here, he would keep you in heart; but he is along with the children, and takes care of them in my absence. Come, eat! Instead of staring at me in that way." But the horse, having just touched the oats with his mouth, as if in obedience to his master, returned to them no more, and began to nibble at the sleeve of Dagobert's coat. "Come, come, my poor Jovial! there is something the matter with you. You have generally such a good appetite, and now you leave your corn. 'Tis the first time this has happened since our departure," said the soldier, who was now growing seriously uneasy, for the issue of his journey greatly depended on the health and vigor of his horse. Just then a frightful roaring, so near that it seemed to come from the stable in which they were, gave so violent a shock to Jovial, that with one effort he broke his halter, leaped over the bar that marked his place, and rushing at the open door, escaped into the court-yard. Dagobert had himself started at the suddenness of this wild and fearful sound, which at once explained to him the cause of his horse's terror. The adjoining stable was occupied by the itinerant menagerie of the brute-tamer, and was only separated by the partition, which supported the mangers. The three horses of the Prophet, accustomed to these howlings, had remained perfectly quiet. "Good!" said the soldier, recovering himself; "I understand it now. Jovial has heard another such roar before, and he can scent the animals of that insolent scoundrel. It is enough to frighten him," added he, as he carefully collected the oats from the manger; "once in another stable, and there must be others in this place, he will no longer leave his peck, and we shall be able to start early to-morrow morning!" The terrified horse, after running and galloping about the yard, returned at the voice of the soldier, who easily caught him by the broken halter; and a hostler, whom Dagobert asked if there was another vacant stable, having pointed out one that was only intended for a single animal, Jovial was comfortably installed there. When delivered from his ferocious neighbors, the horse became tranquil as before, and even amused himself much at the expense of Dagobert's top- coat, which, thanks to his tricks, might have afforded immediate occupation for his master's needle, if the latter had not been fully engaged in admiring the eagerness with which Jovial dispatched his provender. Completely reassured on his account, the soldier shut the door of the stable, and proceeded to get his supper as quickly as possible, in order to rejoin the orphans, whom he reproached himself with having left so long. CHAPTER V. ROSE AND BLANCHE. The orphans occupied a dilapidated chamber in one of the most remote wings of the inn, with a single window opening upon the country. A bed without curtains, a table, and two chairs, composed the more than modest furniture of this retreat, which was now lighted by a lamp. On the table, which stood near the window, was deposited the knapsack of the soldier. The great Siberian dog, who was lying close to the door, had already twice uttered a deep growl, and turned his head towards the window--but without giving any further affect to this hostile manifestation. The two sisters, half recumbent in their bed, were clad in long white wrappers, buttoned at the neck and wrists. They wore no caps, but their beautiful chestnut hair was confined at the temples by a broad piece of tape, so that it might not get tangled during the night. These white garments, and the white fillet that like a halo encircled their brows, gave to their fresh and blooming faces a still more candid expression. The orphans laughed and chatted, for, in spite of some early sorrows, they still retained the ingenuous gayety of their age. The remembrance of their mother would sometimes make them sad, but this sorrow had in it nothing bitter; it was rather a sweet melancholy, to be sought instead of shunned. For them, this adored mother was not dead--she was only absent. Almost as ignorant as Dagobert, with regard to devotional exercises, for in the desert where they had lived there was neither church nor priest, their faith, as was already said, consisted in this--that God, just and good, had so much pity for the poor mothers whose children were left on earth, that he allowed them to look down upon them from highest heaven-- to see them always, to hear them always, and sometimes to send fair guardian angels to protect therein. Thanks to this guileless illusion, the orphans, persuaded that their mother incessantly watched over them, felt, that to do wrong would be to afflict her, and to forfeit the protection of the good angels.--This was the entire theology of Rose and Blanche--a creed sufficient for such pure and loving souls. Now, on the evening in question, the two sisters chatted together whilst waiting for Dagobert. Their theme interested them much, for, since some days, they had a secret, a great secret, which often quickened the beatings of their innocent hearts, often agitated their budding bosoms, changed to bright scarlet the roses on their cheeks, and infused a restless and dreamy langour into the soft blue of their large eyes. Rose, this evening, occupied the edge of the couch, with her rounded arms crossed behind her head, which was half turned towards her sister; Blanche, with her elbow resting on the bolster, looked at her smilingly, and said: "Do you think he will come again to-night?" "Oh, yes! certainly. He promised us yesterday." "He is so good, he would not break his promise." "And so handsome, with his long fair curls." "And his name--what a charming name!--How well it suits his face." "And what a sweet smile and soft voice, when he says to us, taking us by the hand: 'My children, bless God that he has given you one soul. What others seek elsewhere, you will find in yourselves.'" "'Since your two hearts,' he added, 'only make one.'" "What pleasure to remember his words, sister!" "We are so attentive! When I see you listening to him, it is as if I saw myself, my dear little mirror!" said Rose, laughing, and kissing her sister's forehead. "Well--when he speaks, your--or rather our eyes--are wide, wide open, our lips moving as if we repeated every word after him. It is no wonder we forget nothing that he says." "And what he says is so grand, so noble, and generous." "Then, my sister, as he goes on talking, what good thoughts rise within us! If we could but always keep them in mind." "Do not be afraid! they will remain in our hearts, like little birds in their mother's nests." "And how lucky it is, Rose, that he loves us both at the same time!" "He could not do otherwise, since we have but one heart between us." "How could he love Rose, without loving Blanche?" "What would have become of the poor, neglected one?" "And then again he would have found it so difficult to choose." "We are so much like one another." "So, to save himself that trouble," said Rose, laughing, "he has chosen us both." "And is it not the best way? He is alone to love us; we are two together to think of him." "Only he must not leave us till we reach Paris." "And in Paris, too--we must see him there also." "Oh, above all at Paris; it will be good to have him with us--and Dagobert, too--in that great city. Only think, Blanche, how beautiful it must be." "Paris!--it must be like a city all of gold." "A city, where every one must be happy, since it is so beautiful." "But ought we, poor orphans, dare so much as to enter it? How people will look at us!" "Yes--but every one there is happy, every one must be good also." "They will love us." "And, besides, we shall be with our friend with the fair hair and blue eyes." "He has yet told us nothing of Paris." "He has not thought of it; we must speak to him about it this very night." "If he is in the mood for talking. Often you know, he likes best to gaze on us in silence--his eyes on our eyes." "Yes. In those moments, his look recalls to me the gaze of our dear mother." "And, as she sees it all, how pleased she must be at what has happened to us!" "Because, when we are so much beloved, we must, I hope, deserve it." "See what a vain thing it is!" said Blanche, smoothing with her slender fingers the parting of the hair on her sister's forehead. After a moment's reflection, Rose said to her: "Don't you think we should relate all this to Dagobert?" "If you think so, let us do it." "We tell him everything, as we told everything to mother. Why should we conceal this from him?" "Especially as it is something which gives us so much pleasure." "Do you not find that, since we have known our friend, our hearts beat quicker and stronger?" "Yes, they seem to be more full." "The reason why is plain enough; our friend fills up a good space in them." "Well, we will do best to tell Dagobert what a lucky star ours is." "You are right--" At this moment the dog gave another deep growl.
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