Well, then

In the meanwhile, her mistress, downstairs, was urging her husband
to go to the police station.

“Just think of the little thief,” she was saying. “And I who kept
her out of charity, though she broke a fortune in plates, because I
thought that at least she had ‘clean hands.'”

“I wonder,” said an elderly man who had not yet spoken, and who was
Taki’s godfather, “where the girl can have found this twenty-five
drachmæ note?”

“I put it myself on my chest of drawers under my pincushion this
morning,” explained Mattina’s mistress. “When I came to go out with
the children it was missing; and she, the little hypocrite, helped
me to look for it everywhere.”

“Had the girl been alone in your room, since you had put the money
there?” inquired the elderly man.

“Do I know? But she was there a long time messing about with the
children and pretending to help to dress them. A note is easily slipped
up a sleeve. Is it such a big thing? Well, when I could not find it
I said to myself that doubtless Theophani must have taken it, and
forgotten to tell me before he went out. You know how absent-minded
he is. And when I met him in the square, I forgot to ask him, and
never remembered till late this afternoon; and when he said he had
never touched it, of course I knew at once it could only have been
Mattina who had stolen it. Who else? And I, the stupid one, who have
such confidence in people and never lock things up! Who knows how
much more money she has taken at times?”

“Have you missed any, besides this?” asked the elderly man.

“I would have you know, my friend, that money is not so scarce in
this house that we have to count exactly how many drachmæ we leave
about!” Then turning to her sisters: “Someone is knocking outside,”
she said, “I must go and see who it is. You just take those children
and put them to bed. They are fighting the whole time.”

It is true, there was a great noise and much whimpering when Bebeko
was dragged out by one of his aunts from under the table, holding to
a purple limp-looking object which was the half of his boat.

“Taki,” he sobbed, had “boken” his boat.

“He is a stupid one,” announced Taki. “What is it but a piece of
aubergine, his boat?”

“Never mind, my little bird!” said the aunt, picking Bebeko up,
“to-morrow I will buy you a new one; a real boat of wood!”

But to-morrow was far away for Bebeko. He kept tight hold of his
half boat.

“The mast!” he cried as his aunt was carrying him off, “the mast, and
my sail! They are under the table! They fell off! Taki made them fall!”

The aunt, who was a kind young woman, put down the child and stooped to
look for “the mast and the sail,” creeping under the long table-cover
to do so. When she found them, she stopped for a moment, looking at
them, and then called to her sister who came back into the room with
a newspaper in her hand.

“Angeliki! Look at this! Do you see with what the child has been
playing?”

And she held out a piece of paper with two small holes pierced in it,
through which was passed a sharpened stick.

And the piece of paper was a twenty-five drachmæ note.

Bebeko’s mother snatched the note from her sister’s hand, and seized
the child roughly.

“From where did you get this, you bad child? Who gave it to you? Was
it Mattina?”

The child began to cry loudly.

“I want my sail! I want my sail! It is mine! It is not Mattina’s;
it is mine!”

“From where did you get it? Tell me at once, or you will eat stick.”

“Do not frighten the child,” said the father, and he picked up Bebeko
and set him on the table.

“Now tell me like a golden little boy that you are, where did you
find this paper? Tell me, and Babba will give you a ‘loukoumi.'”[27]

The child gulped down a big sob.

“Mattina had no rag to make a sail; she said to ask Mamma….”

“And then?”

“I asked Mamma, and she said, ‘I have no rag, go away,’ and then I
put the paper in my own self. It is mine.”

“Where did you find the paper?”

“On the floor.”

“But where on the floor.”

“Down on the floor.”

Then the youngest aunt said:–

“Come and show me where, Bebeko, and Babba will get the ‘loukoumi.'”

Bebeko scrambled down and took hold of her hand, and led her, all
the others following, into his parents’ bedroom. Then, pointing to
a spot at the foot of the chest of drawers, he said triumphantly:–

“There.”

His mother looked very vexed.

“Those children!” she cried. “Whatever they see, they take. All this
fuss we have had for nothing!”

“Go upstairs, now,” said her husband, “and tell that poor girl that
you have found the money. She was half mad with fright when you told
her you would send her to prison.”

“It does not do her any harm,” said Mattina’s mistress, “if she did
not do it this time, it will be a lesson for her if she ever feels
inclined to steal in the future. However, she may as well come down
and take the children to bed,” and she took a lighted candle, and
went upstairs to unlock the door.

In a moment the others heard an astounded voice exclaiming:–

“Bah! She is not here!”

“Not there! Nonsense!” cried her husband; and they all ran up and
peered into the little dark room.

But it was quite true, Mattina was not there.

They looked all round, but there was only the tumbled mattress on the
floor, a red cotton coverlet hanging on a nail in the wall over it,
a straw chair, a pitcher of water in a tin basin, and not a single
cupboard, nook, or corner in which anyone could hide.

“The girl must have crept down quietly while we were talking, and
run away to her uncle’s,” said the master.

“But the door was locked,” objected his wife.

“Impossible.”

“But it was, I tell you.”

“You meant to lock it but you did not.”

“I locked it and double locked it.”

“You were in a passion at the moment, and you did not know what you
were doing.”

“Since I tell you I turned the key twice with my hand,” screamed his
wife, getting very red. “Do I eat straw? I locked it and I locked it
well. Do you not understand Greek? Shall I say it in Chinese?”

Her husband strode into the little room and, taking the lighted candle,
lifted it high above his head.

“You women have no logic! Look!” turning to the others, “can the girl
have climbed through the window?”

It was a tiny barred window over their heads, looking out upon a
courtyard far below.

They all laughed.

“No, certainly!”

“Well, then, she must have got through the door! Come downstairs
now, there is no use in staying up here. In the morning I will go to
her uncle’s.”

Then as they left the room he turned to his wife who was still
protesting violently that she had locked the door; she would lay her
head that she had.

“Now enough words, wife! Perhaps you think the girl passed through
the wall?”

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