All at once he sat up straight, with an instinctive warning in his mind that here was the thing. Gorringe had taken up the subject of the “debt-raising” evening, and read out its essentials as they had been embodied in a report of the stewards. The gross sum obtained, in cash and promises, was $1,860. The stewards had collected of this a trifle less than half, but hoped to get it all in during the ensuing quarter. There were, also, the bill of Mr. and Mrs. Soulsby for $150, and the increases of $100 in the pastor’s salary and $25 in the apportioned contribution of the charge toward the Presiding Elder’s maintenance, the two latter items of which the Quarterly Conference had sanctioned.
“I want to hear the names of the subscribers and their amounts read out,” put in Brother Pierce.
When this was done, it became apparent that much more than half of the entire amount had been offered by two men. Levi Gorringe’s $450 and Erastus Winch’s $425 left only $985 to be divided up among some seventy or eighty other members of the congregation.
Brother Pierce speedily stopped the reading of these subordinate names. “They’re of no concern whatever,” he said, despite the fact that his own might have been reached in time. “Those first names are what I was getting at. Have those two first amounts, the big ones, be’n paid?”
“One has—the other not,” replied Gorringe.
“Pre-cisely,” remarked the senior trustee. “And I’m goin’ to move that it needn’t be paid, either. When Brother Winch, here, began hollerin’ out those extra twenty-fives and fifties, that evening, it was under a complete misapprehension. He’d be’n on the Cheese Board that same Monday afternoon, and he’d done what he thought was a mighty big stroke of business, and he felt liberal according. I know just what that feelin’ is myself. If I’d be’n makin’ a mint o’ money, instead o’ losin’ all the while, as I do, I’d ‘a’ done just the same. But the next day, lo, and behold, Brother Winch found that it was all a mistake—he hadn’t made a single penny.”
“Fact is, I lost by the whole transaction,” put in Erastus Winch, defiantly.
“Just so,” Brother Pierce went on. “He lost money. You have his own word for it. Well, then, I say it would be a burning shame for us to consent to touch one penny of what he offered to give, in the fullness of his heart, while he was laborin’ under that delusion. And I move he be not asked for it. We’ve got quite as much as we need, without it. I put my motion.”
“That is, you don’t put it,” suggested Winch, correctingly. “You move it, and Brother Ware, whom we’re all so glad to see able to come and preside—he’ll put it.”
There was a moment’s silence. “You’ve heard the motion,” said Theron, tentatively, and then paused for possible remarks. He was not going to meddle in this thing himself, and Gorringe was the only other who might have an opinion to offer. The necessities of the situation forced him to glance at the lawyer inquiringly. He did so, and turned his eyes away again like a shot. Gorringe was looking him squarely in the face, and the look was freighted with satirical contempt.