Tom, Dick and Harriet/Chapter 19
METHUSELAH SUBSCRIBES TO THE FUND
TWO days later, on Monday, there was a meeting of the F. H. S. I. S., the call having been hurriedly issued by the secretary-treasurer in person. And when the members of the society were assembled in the barn Harry produced triumphantly three letters.
“They came this morning,” she said excitedly, “and I haven’t opened them yet. I thought you’d all like to be here when I did, you know. Here’s two from New York and one from Cleveland, Ohio, and—and they all feel as though they had something in them!”
“Bully!” cried Chub. “Open ’em up!”
“You do it,” said Harry, handing the letters to Dick. There was a moment of silent suspense while Dick carefully slit the first envelop with his knife. Out came a letter and—a check!
“How much?” cried the others in chorus. Dick looked at it, scowled and glanced at the few lines in the letter. Then:
“Five dollars,” he said blankly.
There was a moment of disappointment, broken by Chub.
“Mail it back to him,” he said disgustedly.
“Try the next one,” murmured Harry. Dick did so. Again a check came into sight.
“Fifty,” said Dick encouragedly.
“That’s better,” said Roy. “Try the next. Let’s know the worst.”
Dick opened the third letter, unfolded the sheet of paper within and looked on all sides of it. There was no check.
“Rotten!” growled Chub. “What’s the beast say?”
“It’s all right!” cried Dick who had been reading the letter. “He promises five hundred whenever we get ready to use the money!”
“That’s the stuff!” said Roy. “He’s all right, he is! What’s his beautiful name?”
“Lemuel Fish,” answered Dick.
“Well,” said Roy, when the laughter had subsided, “he may not be much on name, but he’s all right on promises.”
“He’s a promising man,” murmured Chub.
“You don’t think the promise is—is fishy?” asked Harry, and for a moment didn’t know why the others laughed. “But I didn’t mean to make a pun,” she declared earnestly.
“Oh, Harry,” teased Roy, “I saw you thinking that up whole minutes ago! And such a weak pun, too!”
“I didn’t! I didn’t!” cried Harry, stamping her foot, between smiling and frowning. Methuselah, who had so far been perched comfortably on her shoulder and behaving himself thoroughly, resented being jarred and so climbed down to the lid of the grain chest and from there to the barn floor, sidling off into the semi-darkness behind the harness-room with many cunning chuckles.
“Oh, he will pay all right,” said Dick. “He’s a railroad man according to his letter-head, and railroad men are all rich, you know.”
“Are they?” asked Chub. “Let’s start a railroad instead of a dormitory, then. What do you say?”
“Let’s see how much we’ve got subscribed,” suggested Roy. “Five hundred and fifty and five and forty—”
“Wait,” cried Harry. “I’m secretary! I’ll make a list of the subscriptions.” She started to work on the pad she carried, and the others waited patiently while she frowned and labored. Presently, “There!” she said. “Now listen:
Dick $50.00 Roy 5.00 Chub 5.00 Harry 5.00 Lemuel Fish 500.00 Charles A. Bliss 50.00 J. L. Hughes 5.00 Total $620.00 Printing, etc. 4.30 Amount on hand $615.70”
“Well,” said Chub, “that’s something, even if it is a long way from thirty thousand.”
“And there are eleven people still to hear from,” said Harry hopefully.
“The one I wanted most to get a reply from,” said Dick, “hasn’t written yet. I hope he will.”
“Who is that?” Roy asked.
“What? The banker? Why, he’s worth millions!”
“That’s why I hope he’ll answer us,” said Dick dryly.
“Do you mean that he went to school here?” asked Chub incredulously. Dick nodded.
“He was here for two years just after the school started, about twenty-three years ago. I don’t think he graduated, though. But that wouldn’t make any difference if he wanted to give us some money. He gives lots, you know. Only last fall he gave a small fortune to some little old college in Pennsylvania that no one ever heard of before.”
“I wish you’d registered that letter,” said Chub thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t want it to miss him.”
“Seems to me it’s time he wrote, if he’s going to,” said Roy.
“Oh, men like Kearney are pretty busy, I guess,” said Dick. “There’s plenty of time yet. I was rather hoping that he’d give a good big sum, say ten or twenty thousand. If we could get some one to give that much I’ll bet we wouldn’t have much trouble raising the rest.”
“I love the way Dick talks about ten or twenty thousand as though it was fifty cents,” sighed Chub. “Why, if I saw twenty thousand dollars coming along on the other side of the street, I’d be so scared I’d run up an alley! But Dick—why, Dickums would just smile and walk across and slap it on the back!”
“I think,” said Harry seriously, “that we’ve done awfully well. Why, just think, when we began we didn’t have a cent! And now we’ve got over six hundred dollars!”
“By the way, where are you keeping it, Harry?” asked Roy.
“Hold on! Don’t tell!” Chub cried. “He wants to swipe this, too!”
“Say, shut up about that, will you?” growled Roy. “I don’t mind a joke, but you’re wearing it out, you know.”
“In the bank,” answered Harry. “I’ve opened an account; ‘Harriet Emery, Treasurer’; and I’ve got a real bank-book! And if we let the money stay in the bank for three months we’ll get three per cent. interest on it!”
“Then I guess that’s the best way to get the thirty thousand,” laughed Chub. “Just let it lie in the bank until the accumulated interest—”
“Steady!” cautioned Roy.
“—amounts to the other twenty-nine thousand four hundred.”
“You’re a chump,” said Dick. “And you won’t get three per cent. for three months, Harry; it’s three per cent. a year.”
“Oh, is that it?” asked Harry disappointedly. “But I’d get something, wouldn’t I?”
“Yes, one fourth of three per cent.” Harry began to figure earnestly.
“What I want to know,” said Chub, “is why you’ve got the money we lost down on the subscription list.”
“Because,” answered Dick, “Harry insists that she’s going to pay it back.”
“She’s going to do nothing of the sort!” exclaimed Roy indignantly. “She may pay her five dollars back and we’ll all do the same, but there’s no reason why she should pay it all!”
“That’s what I tell her,” Dick replied, “but you know Harry’s a little bit—well, a little bit stubborn, Roy.”
“I’m not,” declared Harry, without raising her head from the tablet upon which she was figuring. “And I am going to pay it back. It was in my—my custody, and I am responsible. I’d like to know what folks would do if treasurers could lose money entrusted to them and not have to pay it back!”
“But you’re not a real treasurer—” began Chub.
“Why, Chub Eaton!” exclaimed Harry indignantly. “I am, too!”
“I mean,” exclaimed Chub lamely, “that you aren’t under bonds, you know, and—”
“I don’t care. I’m going to make res—restitution!”
“I don’t believe,” said Roy just then in an odd voice, “that it’s going to be necessary to make restitution.”
“What do you mean?” demanded Harry.
Roy pointed past her into the twilight of the barn.
“Ask Methuselah,” he said.
The others turned, following his outstretched finger with their eyes. Out from under the shapeless form of a mowing machine walked Methuselah, his beady eyes glittering in the gloom, his head cocked on one side and his yellow beak closed over an object which at first glance looked like a piece of brown paper folded into a tiny parcel. In an instant Harry had swooped down upon the astounded bird and was dancing back with a small chamois bag in her hand.
“It’s the money!” she cried. The boys crowded around her while she untied the little pink string with trembling fingers and while Methuselah, quite forgotten, smoothed his feathers and scolded angrily. Out came the bills and coins and Dick’s check, all intact.
“Methuselah was the thief, I’ll bet a hat!” cried Chub.
“Sure,” agreed Dick. “But I don’t see how he ever got up on that rafter.”
“Oh, he climbs around everywhere when I let him out,” said Harry excitedly. “And he’s a terrible thief. Don’t you remember the time he stole the turnip seeds and ate them?”
“Well, I’m glad he didn’t eat this,” said Roy. “I wonder where he found it now.”
“Oh, he probably lugged it off somewhere and forgot all about it,” said Dick. “And just now when he went roaming around he came across it and—”
“And he knew we wanted it,” completed Harry, “and brought it to us! Isn’t he a darling?”
“Well, that’s all in the way you look at it,” Roy laughed. “Considering that he stole it in the first place—and tried to put the blame on me—!”
“I tell you what!” exclaimed Chub. “’Thuselah was mad because we didn’t elect him to office and so he thought he’d make himself assistant treasurer! Bet you that’s the way of it.”
Harry left the recovered treasure in Dick’s care and picked up the disgruntled parrot, stroking his head and murmuring soothingly:
“He was des a booful ’Thuselah,” she cooed. “An’ he found the money, so he did, and bringed it straight back, didn’t um?”
“Um did,” laughed Roy. “Um’s an old rascal.” But he scratched Methuselah’s head with his finger, and the parrot closed his eyes and looked forgiving.
“Look here,” said Chub. “We’d all got fixed to pay back that money, so let’s do it. Then we’ll put this down as ’Thuselah’s subscription to the cause. What do you say to that?”
“Beautiful!” cried Harry. She thrust the parrot into Roy’s arms and flew to the grain chest. She was busy an instant with pencil and pad, and then, “Here it is!” she cried:
“Methuselah . . . $24.10.”