71. I Polish my Housebreaking-Skills

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Nothing happened. Nothing at all...

Those were the last words he had spoken to me that night. Leaning out of the chaise, he had flung a command at the porter, who'd hastily opened the large outer gate of the back yard. I had yanked open the door on my side and clambered in. The driver hadn't needed prompting after that, he appeared to be well familiar with Mr Ambrose's distaste for wasted time.

"Gee up!"

The cry of the coachman was followed by the crack of the whip. Seconds later, the coach lurched forward and we were rattling over the cobblestones, out under the massive archway into the street. The blurry shapes of gas lanterns rushed past us, like ghosts on their way to the underworld. I wondered if any of them could be bothered to stop and haunt us, maybe rattle their chains for a few minutes or something like that. Mr Ambrose certainly looked like he could use the company.

He was staring out of his window, his face turned away from me. He was even more cold and taciturn than usual. What was the matter?"

"Mr Ambrose?"

Silence.

"Mr Ambrose, Sir?"

More silence. Really quite extraordinary silent silence.

But then, why should that surprise me? This was Mr Ambrose I was trying to talk to, after all. Still, for some reason I had expected him to be more talkative. I had expected him to want to talk about something... something important. The memory hovered on the edge of my consciousness. Once more, I reached up and touched my lips. In his icy, silent corner I saw Mr Ambrose shift, almost imperceptibly.

Had I... had we...?

No. I just couldn't remember.

The streets rushed past as if in a dream. The houses shrank, the streets narrowed. No more palatial mansions and memorable marble façades, we were now driving past honest middle-class homes, the comfortable little brick houses of greengrocers, shoemakers and probably also piano-tuners and their sons who had ilicit affairs with young blonde ladies.

"Oh gosh," I mumbled. "I almost forgot about them!" My gaze wandered to Napoleon who was sitting between me and the ice-cold statue in the corner that was Mr Ambrose.

"You couldn't take care of that for me, could you?"

The emperor shook his head sombrely. I sighed.

"I thought so. Blast! You're an abominable slacker, you know that, don't you?"

Mr Ambrose slowly turned his head towards me. His gaze cut into me like a deep-frozen razor.

"I didn't mean you," I clarified. "I was talking to Napoleon."

Mr Ambrose turned his head slowly away from me again. He didn't speak.

"Where to exactly, Sir?" called the coachman from the box. It seemed Mr Ambrose hadn't given him an exact address. I perked up. Surely, now he had to open that stubbornly silent mouth of his.

Wrong. He sat in the corner, staring silently out of the window, just as before.

"Err... Sir? I ain't got no idea where to go!"

Nothing but perfect silence came from the granite monument at the window.

Raising my hand, I knocked against the roof of the chaise.

"Driver?"

He turned around to face me.

"Yes, Sir?"

A strange feeling ran through at me at having somebody else call me 'Sir' – the same hated respectful address I had been forced to give Mr Ambrose day after day, week after week. I felt a surge of power rush through me at hearing the word.

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