Soon, the laughter was again heard with redoubled force, and the soldier, delighted at this gayety, so rare on the part of “his children,” was much affected by it: the tears started to his eyes at the thought that the orphans had at length recovered the serenity natural to their age; then, passing from one emotion to the other, still listening at the door, with his body leaning forward, and his hands resting on his knees, Dagobert’s lip quivered with an expression of mute joy, and, shaking his head a little, he accompanied with his silent laughter, the increasing hilarity of the young girls. At last, as nothing is so contagious as gayety, and as the worthy soldier was in an ecstasy of joy, he finished by laughing aloud with all his might, without knowing why, and only because Rose and Blanche were laughing. Spoil-sport had never seen his master in such a transport of delight; he looked at him for a while in deep and silent astonishment, and then began to bark in a questioning way.
At this well-known sound, the laughter within suddenly ceased, and a sweet voice, still trembling with joyous emotion, exclaimed: “Is it you, Spoil-sport, that have come to wake us?” The dog understood what was said, wagged his tail, held down his ears, and, approaching close to the door, answered the appeal of his young mistress by a kind of friendly growl.
“Spoil-sport,” said Rose, hardly able to restrain her laughter, “you are very early this morning.”
“Tell us what o’clock it is, if you please, old fellow?” added Blanche.
“Young ladies, it is past eight,” said suddenly the gruff voice of Dagobert, accompanying this piece of humor with a loud laugh.
A cry of gay surprise was heard, and then Rose resumed: “Good-morning, Dagobert.”
“Good-morning, my children. You are very lazy to-day, I must tell you.”
“It is not our fault. Our dear Augustine has not yet been to call us. We are waiting for her.”
“Oh! there it is,” said Dagobert to himself, his features once more assuming an expression of anxiety. Then he returned aloud, in a tone of some embarrassment, for the worthy man was no hand at a falsehood: “My children, our companion went out this morning—very early. She is gone to the country—on business—she will not return for some days—so you had better get up by yourselves for today.”
“Our good Madame Augustine!” exclaimed Blanche, with interest. “I hope it is nothing bad that has made her leave suddenly—eh, Dagobert?”
“No, no—not at all—only business,” answered the soldier. “To see one of her relations.”
“Oh, so much the better!” said Rose. “Well, Dagobert, when we call you can come in.”
“I will come back in a quarter of an hour,” said the soldier as he withdrew; and he thought to himself: “I must lecture that fool Loony—for he is so stupid, and so fond of talking, that he will let it all out.”