Rat-it-all had spoken truth. The treasure—every coin of it—had vanished!
Nicky-Nan’s head dropped sideways and rattled on the boards.
“Mister Nanjivell! Mis-ter Nanjivell!”
It was the child ’Beida’s voice, calling from below.
“Are you upstairs, Mister Nanjivell? I want to see you—in such a hurry!”
Following up her summons, she arrived panting at the open doorway. “O-oh!” she cried, after a catch of the breath. Her face blanched as she looked around the bedroom; at Builder Gilbert, standing, wash-jug in hand; at Mr Pamphlett, kneeling, examining the cupboard; at Policeman Rat-it-all, kneeling also, but on one knee, while on the other he supported Nicky-Nan’s inert head and bathed a cut on the right temple, dipping a rag of a towel into the poor chipped basin on the ground beside him.
“What are you doin’ to him?” demanded ’Beida, her colour coming back with a rush.
Mr Pamphlett had slewed about on his knees. “Here, you cut and run!” he commanded sharply. But his posture did not lend itself to authority, and he showed some embarrassment.
“What are you doin’ to him?” the child demanded again.
“He’ve had a fit,” explained Builder Gilbert, holding out the ewer. “Here, run downstairs and fetch up some more water, if you want to be useful.”
’Beida stared at the ewer. She transferred her gaze to Rat-it-all and his patient: then, after a shiver, to Mr Pamphlett. She had courage. Her eyes grew hard and fierce.
“Is that why Mr Pamphlett’s pokin’ his nose into a cupboard?”
“Rat it all!” the constable ejaculated, casting a glance over his shoulder and dipping a hand wide of the basin.
“Fetch up some water, my dear,” suggested Builder Gilbert. “When a man’s in a fit ’tis no time to ask questions, as you’ll learn when you grow up.” Again he proffered the ewer.
‘Beida ignored it. “When a man’s in a fit, do folks help by pokin’ their noses into his cupboards?” she demanded again, not removing her eyes from Mr Pamphlett.
“Pack that child out!” commanded Mr Pamphlett, standing up and addressing Rat-it-all. “Do you hear me?”
“I hear, sir,” answered Rat-it-all. “But situated as I be—” He cast a helpless glance at the child, who seemed to grow in stature as, lifting her forefinger and pointing it at Mr Pamphlett, she advanced into the room and shrilled—
“You’ve come to steal his money, the three of ‘ee! An’ you can’t take me in nor frighten me, not one of ’ee!”
The high treble voice, or the word “money,” or both, fetched Nicky-Nan back to consciousness. He opened his eyes and groaned.
“The money—where’s the money?” he muttered. His eyes opened wider. Then of a sudden his brain cleared. He sat up with a wild cry, almost a scream; and, thrusting Rat-it-all backwards with all the force of one hand, with the other groped on the floor for his walking-staff—which lay, however, a couple of yards from him and close by Mr Pamphlett’s feet.