“Very well. Pick up your wood, and begone!”
“Oh, M. Dagobert! my legs tremble under me. How you did scare me, to be sure!”
“Will you begone, brute?” resumed the veteran; and seizing Loony by the arm, he pushed him towards the door, while Spoil-sport, with recumbent ears, and hair standing up like the quills of a porcupine, seemed inclined to accelerate his retreat.
“I am going, M. Dagobert, I am going,” replied the simpleton, as he hastily gathered up his basket; “only please to tell the dog—”
“Go to the devil, you stupid chatterbox!” cried Dagobert, as he pushed Loony through the doorway.
Then the soldier bolted the door which led to the private staircase, and going to that which communicated with the apartments of the two sisters, he double-locked it. Having done this, he hastened to the alcove in which stood the bed and taking down a pair of loaded pistols, he carefully removed the percussion caps, and, unable to repress a deep sigh, restored the weapons to the place in which he had found them. Then, as if on second thoughts, he took down an Indian dagger with a very sharp blade, and drawing it from its silver-gilt sheath, proceeded to break the point of this murderous instrument, by twisting it beneath one of the iron castors of the bed.
Dagobert then proceeded to unfasten the two doors, and, returning slowly to the marble chimney-piece, he leaned against it with a gloomy and pensive air. Crouching before the fire, Spoil-sport followed with an attentive eye the least movement of his master. The good dog displayed a rare and intelligent sagacity. The soldier, having drawn out his handkerchief, let fall, without perceiving it, a paper containing a roll of tobacco. Spoil-sport, who had all the qualities of a retriever of the Rutland race, took the paper between his teeth, and, rising upon his hind-legs, presented it respectfully to Dagobert. But the latter received it mechanically, and appeared indifferent to the dexterity of his dog. The grenadier’s countenance revealed as much sorrow as anxiety. After remaining for some minutes near the fire, with fixed and meditative look, he began to walk about the room in great agitation, one of his hands thrust into the bosom of his long blue frock-coat, which was buttoned up to the chin, and the other into one of his hind-pockets.
From time to time he stopped abruptly, and seemed to make reply to his own thoughts, or uttered an exclamation of doubt and uneasiness; then, turning towards the trophy of arms, he shook his head mournfully, and murmured, “No matter—this fear may be idle; but he has acted so extraordinarily these two days, that it is at all events more prudent—”
He continued his walk, and said, after a new and prolonged silence: “Yes he must tell me. It makes me too uneasy. And then the poor children—it is enough to break one’s heart.”
And Dagobert hastily drew his moustache between his thumb and forefinger, a nervous movement, which with him was an evident symptom of extreme agitation. Some minutes after, the soldier resumed, still answering his inward thoughts: “What can it be? It is hardly possible to be the letters, they are too infamous; he despises them. And yet But no, no—he is above that!”