As the hidden door swings back in place behind them, they hear a snuffling, panting noise. It is followed by a high-pitched whine and frantic scratching. Elise rushes to open the door again.
“Peppin! There you are! Où avez-vous été? (Where have you been?)”
Peppin bursts through the opening. His brown eyes are wide. He is panting and snuffling. His pink, velvet tongue hangs to one side. His once fluffy fur is now smudged with dirt. His green ribbon dangles loose between his ears.
“Look at you!” Elise scolds. She briskly brushes away the worst of the smudges with her fingers. “Dirt on your polka dots! Mauvais chien! (Bad dog!) Better hope Mr. Tracy doesn’t see that. Or Maman!”
Peppin wags his tail. He gives two short barks and a high-pitched whine. Alarmed, Elise quickly slams the door closed. “Ugh! Peppin says there are big rats living in the tunnels and they chased him back. We better move fast.” Maxzyne’s mouth drops open in disbelief.
“Wait! He told you that? He talks?”
“I told you. He speaks French. Why do you look so surprised? You were trying to talk to him earlier today in the window. Weren’t you?”
“But that was kind of, well, pretend. You can understand him when he barks, growls, whines, whatever?”
“Of course. We’ve been together a long time. He was good company all those years we were forgotten in the storeroom.”
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