It was Rose (who, as Dagobert said, was doing duty as eldest) that spoke for herself and for her sister.
“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.”