"Sister," said Rose, as she pressed closer to Blanche, "there is the dog growling again. What can be the matter with him?" "Spoil-sport, do not growl! Come hither," said Blanche, striking with her little hand on the side of the bed. The dog rose, again growled deeply, and came to lay his great, intelligent looking head on the counterpane, still obstinately casting a sidelong glance at the window; the sisters bent over him to pat his broad forehead, in the centre of which was a remarkable bump, the certain sign of extreme purity of race. "What makes you growl so, Spoil-sport?" said Blanche, pulling him gently by the ears--"eh, my good dog?" "Poor beast! he is always so uneasy when Dagobert is away." "It is true; one would think he knows that he then has a double charge over us." "Sister, it seems to me, Dagobert is late in coming to say good-night." "No doubt he is attending to Jovial." "That makes me think that we did not bid good-night to dear old Jovial. "I am sorry for it." "Poor beast! he seems so glad when he licks our hands. One would think that he thanked us for our visit." "Luckily, Dagobert will have wished him good-night for us." "Good Dagobert! he is always thinking of us. How he spoils us! We remain idle, and he has all the trouble." "How can we prevent it?" "What a pity that we are not rich, to give him a little rest." "We rich! Alas, my sister! we shall never be anything but poor orphans." "Oh, there's the medal!" "Doubtless, there is some hope attached to it, else we should not have made this long journey." "Dagobert has promised to tell us all, this evening." She was prevented from continuing, for two of the windowpanes flew to pieces with a loud crash. The orphans, with a cry of terror, threw themselves into each other's arms, whilst the dog rushed towards the window, barking furiously. Pale, trembling, motionless with affright, clasping each other in a close embrace, the two sisters held their breath; in their extreme fear, they durst not even cast their eyes in the direction of the window. The dog, with his forepaws resting on the sill, continued to bark with violence. "Alas! what can it be?" murmured the orphans. "And Dagobert not here!" "Hark!" cried Rose, suddenly seizing Blanche by the arm; "hark!--some one coming up the stairs!" "Good heaven! it does not sound like the tread of Dagobert. Do you not hear what heavy footsteps?" "Quick! come, Spoil-sport, and defend us!" cried the two sisters at once, in an agony of alarm. The boards of the wooden staircase really creaked beneath the weight of unusually heavy footsteps, and a singular kind of rustling was heard along the thin partition that divided the chamber from the landing-place. Then a ponderous mass, falling against the door of the room, shook it violently; and the girls, at the very height of terror, looked at each other without the power of speech. The door opened. It was Dagobert. At the sight of him Rose and Blanche joyfully exchanged a kiss, as if they had just escaped from a great danger. "What is the matter? why are you afraid?" asked the soldier in surprise. "Oh, if you only knew!" said Rose, panting as she spoke, for both her own heart and her sister's beat with violence. "If you knew what has just happened! We did not recognize your footsteps--they seemed so heavy--and then that noise behind the partition!" "Little frightened doves that you are! I could not run up the stairs like a boy of fifteen, seeing that I carried my bed upon my back--a straw mattress that I have just flung down before your door, to sleep there as usual." "Bless me! how foolish we must be, sister, not to have thought of that!" said Rose, looking at Blanche. And their pretty faces, which had together grown pale, together resumed their natural color. During this scene the dog, still resting against the window, did not cease barking a moment. "What makes Spoil-sport bark in that direction, my children?" said the soldier. "We do not know. Two of our windowpanes have just been broken. That is what first frightened us so much." Without answering a word Dagobert flew to the window, opened it quickly, pushed back the shutter, and leaned out. He saw nothing; it was a dark night. He listened; but heard only the moaning of the wind. "Spoil-sport," said he to his dog, pointing to the open window, "leap out, old fellow, and search!" The faithful animal took one mighty spring and disappeared by the window, raised only about eight feet above the ground. Dagobert, still leaning over, encouraged his dog with voice and gesture: "Search, old fellow, search! If there is any one there, pin him--your fangs are strong--and hold him fast till I come." But Spoil-sport found no one. They heard him go backwards and forwards, snuffing on every side, and now and then uttering a low cry like a hound at fault. "There is no one, my good dog, that's clear, or you would have had him by the throat ere this." Then, turning to the maidens, who listened to his words and watched his movements with uneasiness: "My girls," said he, "how were these panes broken? Did you not remark?" "No, Dagobert; we were talking together when we heard a great crash, and then the glass fell into the room." "It seemed to me," added Rose, "as if a shutter had struck suddenly against the window." Dagobert examined the shutter, and observed a long movable hook, designed to fasten it on the inside. "It blows hard," said he; "the wind must have swung round the shutter, and this hook broke the window. Yes, yes; that is it. What interest could anybody have to play such a sorry trick?" Then, speaking to Spoil- sport, he asked, "Well, my good fellow, is there no one?" The dog answered by a bark, which the soldier no doubt understood as a negative, for he continued: "Well, then, come back! Make the round--you will find some door open--you are never at a loss." The animal followed this advice. After growling for a few seconds beneath the window, he set off at a gallop to make the circuit of the buildings, and come back by the court-yard. "Be quite easy, my children!" said the soldier, as he again drew near the orphans; "it was only the wind." "We were a good deal frightened," said Rose. "I believe you. But now I think of it, this draught is likely to give you cold." And seeking to remedy this inconvenience, he took from a chair the reindeer pelisse, and suspended it from the spring-catch of the curtainless window, using the skirts to stop up as closely as possible the two openings made by the breaking of the panes. "Thanks, Dagobert, how good you are! We were very uneasy at not seeing you." "Yes, you were absent longer than usual. But what is the matter with you?" added Rose, only just then perceiving that his countenance was disturbed and pallid, for he was still under the painful influence of the brawl with Morok; "how pale you are!" "Me, my pets?--Oh, nothing." "Yes, I assure you, your countenance is quite changed. Rose is right." "I tell you there is nothing the matter," answered the soldier, not without some embarrassment, for he was little used to deceive; till, finding an excellent excuse for his emotion, he added: "If I do look at all uncomfortable, it is your fright that has made me so, for indeed it was my fault." "Your fault!" "Yes; for if I had not lost so much time at supper, I should have been here when the window was broken, and have spared you the fright." "Anyhow, you are here now, and we think no more of it." "Why don't you sit down?" "I will, my children, for we have to talk together," said Dagobert, as he drew a chair close to the head of the bed. "Now tell me, are you quite awake?" he added, trying to smile in order to reassure them. "Are those large eyes properly open?" "Look, Dagobert!" cried the two girls, smiling in their turn, and opening their blue eyes to the utmost extent. "Well, well," said the soldier, "they are yet far enough, from shutting; besides, it is only nine o'clock." "We also have something to tell, Dagobert," resumed Rose, after exchanging glances with her sister. "Indeed!" "A secret to tell you." "A secret?" "Yes, to be sure." "Ah, and a very great secret!" added Rose, quite seriously. "A secret which concerns us both," resumed Blanche. "Faith! I should think so. What concerns the one always concerns the other. Are you not always, as the saying goes, 'two faces under one hood?'" "Truly, how can it be otherwise, when you put our heads under the great hood of your pelisse?" said Rose, laughing. "There they are again, mocking-birds! One never has the last word with them. Come, ladies, your secret, since a secret there is." "Speak, sister," said Rose. "No, miss, it is for you to speak. You are to-day on duty, as eldest, and such an important thing as telling a secret like that you talk of belongs of right to the elder sister. Come, I am listening to you," added the soldier, as he forced a smile, the better to conceal from the maidens how much he still felt the unpunished affronts of the brute- tamer. It was Rose (who, as Dagobert said, was doing duty as eldest) that spoke for herself and for her sister. CHAPTER VI. THE SECRET. "First of all, good Dagobert," said Rose, in a gracefully caressing manner, "as we are going to tell our secret--you must promise not to scold us." "You will not scold your darlings, will you?" added Blanche, in a no less coaxing voice. "Granted!" replied Dagobert gravely; "particularly as I should not well know how to set about it--but why should I scold you." "Because we ought perhaps to have told you sooner what we are going to tell you." "Listen, my children," said Dagobert sententiously, after reflecting a moment on this case of conscience; "one of two things must be. Either you were right, or else you were wrong, to hide this from me. If you were right, very well; if you were wrong, it is done: so let's say no more about it. Go on--I am all attention." Completely reassured by this luminous decision, Rose resumed, while she exchanged a smile with her sister. "Only think, Dagobert; for two successive nights we have had a visitor." "A visitor!" cried the soldier, drawing himself up suddenly in his chair. "Yes, a charming visitor--he is so very fair." "Fair--the devil!" cried Dagobert, with a start. "Yes, fair--and with blue eyes," added Blanche. "Blue eyes--blue devils!" and Dagobert again bounded on his seat. "Yes, blue eyes--as long as that," resumed Rose, placing the tip of one forefinger about the middle of the other. "Zounds! they might be as long as that," said the veteran, indicating the whole length of his term from the elbow they might be as long as that, and it would have nothing to do with it. Fair, and with blue eyes. Pray what may this mean, young ladies?" and Dagobert rose from his seat with a severe and painfully unquiet look. "There now, Dagobert, you have begun to scold us already." "Just at the very commencement," added Blanche. "Commencement!--what, is there to be a sequel? a finish?" "A finish? we hope not," said Rose, laughing like mad. "All we ask is, that it should last forever," added Blanche, sharing in the hilarity of her sister. Dagobert looked gravely from one to the other of the two maidens, as if trying to guess this enigma; but when he saw their sweet, innocent faces gracefully animated by a frank, ingenuous laugh, he reflected that they would not be so gay if they had any serious matter for self-reproach, and he felt pleased at seeing them so merry in the midst of their precarious position. "Laugh on, my children!" he said. "I like so much to see you laugh." Then, thinking that was not precisely the way in which he ought to treat the singular confession of the young girls, he added in a gruff voice: "Yes, I like to see you laugh--but not when you receive fair visitors with blue eyes, young ladies!--Come, acknowledge that I'm an old fool to listen to such nonsense--you are only making game of me." "Nay, what we tell you is quite true." "You know we never tell stories," added Rose. "They are right--they never fib," said the soldier, in renewed perplexity. "But how the devil is such a visit possible? I sleep before your door-- Spoil-sport sleeps under your window--and all the blue eyes and fair locks in the world must come in by one of those two ways--and, if they had tried it, the dog and I, who have both of us quick ears, would have received their visits after our fashion. But come, children! pray, speak to the purpose. Explain yourselves!" The two sisters, who saw, by the expression of Dagobert's countenance, that he felt really uneasy, determined no longer to trifle with his kindness. They exchanged a glance, and Rose, taking in her little hand the coarse, broad palm of the veteran, said to him: "Come, do not plague yourself! We will tell you all about the visits of our friend, Gabriel." "There you are again!--He has a name, then?" "Certainly, he has a name. It is Gabriel." "Is it not a pretty name, Dagobert? Oh, you will see and love, as we do, our beautiful Gabriel!" "I'll love your beautiful Gabriel, will I?" said the veteran, shaking his head--"Love your beautiful Gabriel?--that's as it may be. I must first know--"Then, interrupting himself, he added: "It is queer. That reminds me of something." "Of what, Dagobert?" "Fifteen years ago, in the last letter that your father, on his return from France, brought me from my wife: she told me that, poor as she was, and with our little growing Agricola on her hands, she had taken in a poor deserted child, with the face of a cherub, and the name of Gabriel-- and only a short time since I heard of him again." "And from whom, then?" "You shall know that by and by." "Well, then--since you have a Gabriel of your own--there is the more reason that you should love ours." "Yours! but who is yours? I am on thorns till you tell me." "You know, Dagobert," resumed Rose, "that Blanche and I are accustomed to fall asleep, holding each other by the hand." "Yes, yes, I have often seen you in your cradle. I was never tired of looking at you; it was so pretty." "Well, then--two nights ago, we had just fallen asleep, when we beheld--" "Oh, it was in a dream!" cried Dagobert. "Since you were asleep, it was in a dream!" "Certainly, in a dream- how else would you have it?" "Pray let my sister go on with her tale!" "All, well and good!" said the soldier with a sigh of satisfaction; "well and good! To be sure, I was tranquil enough in any case--because--but still--I like it better to be a dream. Continue, my little Rose." "Once asleep, we both dreamt the same thing." "What! both the same?" "Yes, Dagobert; for the next morning when we awoke we related our two dreams to each other." "And they were exactly alike." "That's odd enough, my children; and what was this dream all about?"