THE FIRST THREE.
Mr Pamphlett had breakfasted, and had gone upstairs to put on his frock-coat and array himself for Divine service.
The servant girl announced Mr Nanjivell.
“Sorry to trouble ’ee, sir, and upon such a day,” said Nicky-Nan, drawing up his sound leg to “attention,” as his enemy entered the parlour: “but my business won’t wait. I saw Doctor Mant after the meetin’ last night, an’ this mornin’ I was up early an’ had a talk wi’ the Minister—wi’ Mr Hambly. The upshot is, that time presses.”
“I do not usually discuss business on the Sabbath,” said Mr Pamphlett stiffly.
“O’ course not. Who would?” Nicky-Nan agreed. “But the upshot is that you an’ me havin’ been not what you might call friends—”
“I am due at Divine service in less than an hour. State your business,” commanded Mr Pamphlett.
“And I am due away, sir, in about that time. Will you look at this paper?” Nicky-Nan laid on the table a half-sheet of notepaper scribbled over with figures in pencil. “Look over that, if you please; or put it off till you come back from Chapel, if you will: but by that time I shall be gone. You’ll find my address in Plymouth at the foot.”
“If you’d kindly explain—”
“Mrs Penhaligon has the money. I’ve spoke to Dr Mant: who says I can be put right, an’ the operation, with board and lodging, will be covered by ten pound. I’ve taken ten pound, as accounted for on the paper.”
Mr Pamphlett picked up the paper, and felt for his pince-nez.
“Still I don’t understand.”
“No, you wouldn’t. I’m trustin’ ’ee—that’s what it comes to. I’ve had a talk with Mr Hambly besides; and he and Dr Mant’ll look after my interests. . . . You see, I did find a hoard o’ money in the Old Doctor’s House, an’ stuck to it, not knowin’ the law. On the paper, too, you’ll see what I’ve used of it—every penny accounted for. Mr Hambly says that anyway the law gives me a share far beyond anything I’ve used. So I leave it atween ’ee, to see fair play for me if ever I come back. If I don’t, I’ve left it to the Penhaligon children; an’ Mr Hambly an’ Dr Mant’ll see fair play for them. . . . But you understand, sir”—Nicky-Nan dived into his left trouser-pocket and showed a palmful of coins—“I’ve taken ten pound, for the operation an’ sundries.”
Mr Pamphlett studied the paper for a moment.
“But, my good man—since you say that you have taken Mr Hambly into your confidence—”
“Oh, well—you will be back, doubtless, in a few days’ time; and then we can talk. This—this is very—er—honest of you.”