“We had our breakfasts–whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder, it doesn’t matter, you must have your breakfast.” The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Collins has a way of writing that makes you feel as though you’re involved in a complicated mystery with twists and turns, but at the same time you’re in a light-hearted tale following an everyday fellow. That endearing quality is the reason I enjoy reading his books. And, I so love a line like this one–it catches you off guard, in a good way.
“You must have your breakfast,” Collins writes, “. . . whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder.” I admit I actually laughed out loud when I read that quote because there’s no explanation after it. The character of Gabriel Betteridge (head butler) simple moves on and describes what came next in his day. “Did I miss something?” I wondered. So, I re-read the paragraph–nope. Remarks like that, sprinkled throughout the story press my pause button and then my mental rewind. And then, I wanna share my thoughts, with you, so, . . . I write. Also, I was an English teacher for many years. Analyzing lines from literature is second nature to me. Don’t be afraid, though. My views and thoughts on it are pretty simplistic these days. Keep reading!
Since this line came from a head servant of a well-to-do family, he may simply mean that no matter what, as a servant, you must be prepared to serve breakfast. Those who would have breakfast served to them, after all, are probably unpredictable. And, they’re likely fickle. One minute they say they’re not hungry, and the next they say they’re famished. I’ve experienced this every time my parents have come for a visit. Or, anytime I have guests at all, really. I just never know if they’ve stopped for Jack-in-the-Box on the way to my house, so I prepare an easy spread.
The character of Betteridge may also mean that as a servant, no matter what has happened in the house, your basic needs don’t really matter to those in charge. Or in my case, to those coming for a visit. Therefore, it’s best to eat your breakfast first thing. There’s no telling what you’ll be called upon to do in response to the murder or robbery incident. If you don’t, you’ll lose any opportunity to eat and could, well, . . . faint and be sent to bed. Then what good are you to the boss or to those visiting? Such is the life of a servant, a mom, or a hostess.
I started writing this blog post soon after I read the breakfast line in the novel. Little did I know that I would soon be faced with the predicament I described in my first analysis! One morning it happened–a crisis that threatened my breakfast and my ability to serve!
I was called upon to act. But to my dismay, I had just set my water to boil on the stove. That’s my routine. Boil the water, brew the tea, reheat a muffin, spread vegan butter on said muffin, eat, repeat. So this incident, decidedly NOT murder or robbery, but still highly stressful, forced me to weigh the situation carefully. Despite my hunger, I knew that if I sat down to eat, I would appear heartless. Even if gobbled down a bite or two with a swish of tea, I’d be ridiculed and judged.
Anyway, I fully realized the truth of Collins’ quote that morning. I put my hunger and my cup of tea on hold. And, I helped, assisted, searched, and comforted. Then, when all of that had still produced no visible results, I couldn’t wait any longer. My head was woozy and my stomach angry. So, I sat down and ate my breakfast. Why? Because when I’m hungry, I’m good for no one. I’m not helpful, or even stable. If there’s been a murder or a theft in my house, it’s decidedly best for no one to mention it to me until after I’ve eaten my breakfast.
What I realized is this: in order to serve others, we must first serve ourselves. In The Moonstone, the author suggests not skipping breakfast if you’re a servant. But I present this wisdom to you–1. accept that we are all servants (really) and 2. don’t skip any meal during a crisis. If you do, your sudden lack of decorum and manners may get you into trouble. Those counting on you may just begin to hate you. And, if the murderer is still in your home, you may easily become his next victim. Or, you might find yourself so desperately hungry that you end up stealing food! Remember Jean Valjean in Les Miserables? He stole the bread! Then he spent years in prison, became mayor for a while, but was chased for years by angry Javert!
No matter what, eat your breakfast. Don’t be the reason somebody is driven to murder. And don’t give yourself a reason to commit robbery. Remember the meaningful, yet oddly comical line by Wilkie Collins. All will go better for you, I’m sure of it. Your boss, your guests, and anyone who lives with you will thank you for it. Well, they probably won’t thank you because they’ll be in panic mode, but you’ll be ready for action!