21. The Cutting Of The Telephone Wires
The door opened, and in came Charolais, bearing a tray.
"Here's your breakfast, master," he said.
"Don't call me master--that's how his men address Guerchard. It's a disgusting practice," said
Victoire and Charolais were quick laying the table. Charolais kept up a running fire of
questions as he did it; but Lupin did not trouble to answer them. He lay back, relaxed, drawing
deep breaths. Already his lips had lost their greyness, and were pink; there was a suggestion of
blood under the skin of his pale face. They soon had the table laid; and he walked to it on fairly
steady feet. He sat down; Charolais whipped off a cover, and said:
"Anyhow, you've got out of the mess neatly. It was a jolly smart escape."
"Oh, yes. So far it's all right," said Lupin. "But there's going to be trouble presently--lots of it. I
shall want all my wits. We all shall."
He fell upon his breakfast with the appetite but not the manners of a wolf. Charolais went out
of the room. Victoire hovered about him, pouring out his coffee and putting sugar into it.
"By Jove, how good these eggs are!" he said. "I think that, of all the thousand ways of cooking
eggs, en cocotte is the best."
"Heavens! how empty I was!" he said presently. "What a meal I'm making! It's really a very
healthy life, this of mine, Victoire. I feel much better already."
"Oh, yes; it's all very well to talk," said Victoire, in a scolding tone; for since he was better, she
felt, as a good woman should, that the time had come to put in a word out of season. "But, all
the same, you're trying to kill yourself--that's what you're doing. Just because you're young you
abuse your youth. It won't last for ever; and you'll be sorry you used it up before it's time. And
this life of lies and thefts and of all kinds of improper things--I suppose it's going to begin all
over again. It's no good your getting a lesson. It's just thrown away upon you."
"What I want next is a bath," said Lupin.
"It's all very well your pretending not to listen to me, when you know very well that I'm
speaking for your good," she went on, raising her voice a little. "But I tell you that all this is
going to end badly. To be a thief gives you no position in the world--no position at all--and
when I think of what you made me do the night before last, I'm just horrified at myself."
"We'd better not talk about that--the mess you made of it! It was positively excruciating!" said
"And what did you expect? I'm an honest woman, I am!" said Victoire sharply. "I wasn't
brought up to do things like that, thank goodness! And to begin at my time of life!"
"It's true, and I often ask myself how you bring yourself to stick to me," said Lupin, in a
reflective, quite impersonal tone. "Please pour me out another cup of coffee."
"That's what I'm always asking myself," said Victoire, pouring out the coffee. "I don't know--I
give it up. I suppose it is because I'm fond of you."
"Yes, and I'm very fond of you, my dear Victoire," said Lupin, in a coaxing tone.
"And then, look you, there are things that there's no understanding. I often talked to your poor
mother about them. Oh, your poor mother! Whatever would she have said to these goings-on?"