“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.”
“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.
“A secret to tell you.”
“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.