140 MONSIEUR DUMAS AND HIS BEASTS
' He has developed an unnatural craving for eggs; he got into M. Acoyer's poultry-yard and stole all his. M. Acoyer came to complain to me. How do you suppose he lost his foot?'
' You told me yourself — in somebody's grounds where he had forgotten to read the notice about trespassing.'
' You are joking, sir — but I really believe he can read.'
' Oh! Michel, Pritchard is accused of enough sins without having that vice laid to his charge! But about his foot?*
' I think he caught it in some wire getting out of a poultry-yard.'
' But you know it happened at night, and the hens are shut up at night. How could he get into the henhouse ?'
' He doesn't need to get into the hen-house after eggs; he can charm the hens. Pritchard is what one may call a charmer.'
' Michel, you astonish me more and more !'
' Yes, indeed, sir. I knew that he used to charm the hens at the Villa Medicis; only M. Charpillon has such wonderful hens, I did not think they would have allowed it. But I see now all hens are alike.'
' Then you think it is Pritchard who-----'
' I think he charms M. Charpillon's hens, and that is the reason they don't lay — at least, that they only lay for Pritchard.'
' Indeed, Michel, I should much like to know how he does it!'
' If you are awake very early to-morrow, sir, just look out of your window — you can see the poultry-yard from it, and you will see a sight that you have never seen before!'
' I have seen many things, Michel, including sixteen changes of governments, and to see something I have never seen before I would gladly sit up the whole night!'