Brother Lu looked as though this sort of thing gave him something akin to joy. He even shot a tender glance across at Matilda, and then a triumphant one toward the two boys, as though to say: “Didn’t I tell you my sister had a tender heart?”
Then he got on his feet. He really seemed a trifle weak, showing that he had actually been under the weather latterly.
“How much does my sister owe you, man?” he demanded in as stern a voice as he could command.
“Oh! does that interest you at all, Mister Weary Willie?” sneered the irate farmer; “well, if you want to know, my account is an even five dollars. Perhaps, now, you’ll put your hand into your jeans pocket and hand out that amount with pleasure.”
“I’ve got that much tied up in my old bandanna handkerchief, it happens,” said Brother Lu, to the astonishment of Thad. “It’s true me ’nd Brother-in-law Andrew expected to do something different with my little fortune, but then let that pass. You wait till I get it, you grasping milk raiser.”
He started from the room, followed by the admiring gaze of Matilda, who evidently saw in this wonderful offer of her brother a full settlement for all the tender care and affection she had bestowed upon him during the past weeks.
Presently, after a little delay, the reformed hobo came into the room. Sure enough, he was holding a brand-new five-dollar bill in his extended hand, and there was a look of actual pleasure to be seen on his grizzled face.
“There you are, Mister Man,” he said as he thrust the money at the farmer; “now you sign that bill in a hurry, and never show your face here again. We’ll either find another party to deliver us milk, or go without.”
Hugh saw something that gave him an unexpected thrill. It was a simple matter, and no doubt escaped Thad’s attention entirely, yet it might mean a great deal. As he looked closely at the fresh and new bank bill of the denomination of five dollars, Hugh saw that it had only three distinct creases marked across its face, as though it might have been taken from some flat receptacle like a bill-book; certainly when Brother Lu declared that he had such a bill tied up in his bandanna handkerchief he prevaricated, for it would under such conditions have been crumpled instead of looking so smooth! Hugh from that moment began to smell a rat!
THE PUZZLE IS FAR FROM BEING SOLVED
When, a little later on, the two chums came away from the Hosmer home, Thad seemed unusually quiet, for him. Hugh, noticing this, and wishing to ascertain whether the other had begun to get on the track of the truth, presently remarked:
“What makes you so glum, Thad? Coming over you rattled away like a blue streak, and now you haven’t so much as said ten words since we started back home?”
“Well, to tell you the truth,” admitted Thad, shaking his head after the manner of one who is sadly puzzled, “I just don’t know what to say, after seeing that little affair.”