HOW THE CLUB RECEIVED A DONATION

“What were all those children doing at the Randolphs?” inquired Cousin
Judith, as Becky and Don came in to dinner, flushed and triumphant.

“That was the Toby Clark Marching Club,” announced Don, proudly. “I’m
elected captain of it.”

Judith seemed puzzled.

“Tell me about it,” she said. “What’s the idea?”

Becky at once began an excited explanation and Don broke in to
assist her, so that by listening carefully to the broken sentences
the Little Mother managed to get a fair idea of the object of the
organization.

“You don’t mind, do you?” Becky inquired anxiously.

“No, indeed. The Marching Club may not do Toby Clark much good, but it
certainly will do him no harm. As you say, there will be lots of fun in
parading in defense of one so unjustly accused.”

“Becky and I are going to spend all our week’s allowance on ribbon,”
said Don, “and we will make it into badges and Al will print them this
afternoon in gold letters. He got some gold powder with his printing
outfit.”

“Can’t I belong?” asked Sue, who had not been present at the meeting.

“Of course,” said Becky. “Every able-bodied kid in town is welcome to
join, and I’ll bet a cookie they’ll all come in. It’s the swellest
thing in Riverdale, just now, and not to belong to the Toby Clark
Marching Club is to be just a nobody.”

“I think I would like to contribute the ribbon for the badges,” said
Cousin Judith. “How much will you need?”

“Oh, thank you!” they all cried gleefully, and Becky added that they
wanted enough white ribbon to make a hundred badges.

“White’s going to be our color,” said the girl, “’cause it’s the emblem
of innocence, and we’ll stick to Toby’s innocence till the cows come
home. We’re all to wear white sashes, and I wish we could get white
caps to match; but I don’t suppose we can.”

“I’ll see if I can make a white cap,” remarked Phoebe, who was quite
delighted with the idea of the Marching Club. “If I find I can do it,
I’ll make one for every member.”

This encouragement delighted Becky and Don and after dinner Judith and
Phoebe went down town and purchased the ribbon for the badges and white
cotton cloth for the caps. Phoebe found it was not very difficult to
make a round cap, which consisted merely of a band and a crown, and the
first one she stitched up on the machine was pronounced a success. It
was becoming to boys and girls alike and Becky thought Al could print
“T. C. M. C.” on the front of each cap, very easily.

It took Allerton, assisted by Don, all the afternoon to print the
badges, but they looked very pretty with their gold letters and Doris
fringed the end of each one to make it look more like a badge. Becky,
meantime, was assisting Phoebe with the caps, and so was Cousin Judith.
They managed to make thirty before evening, when the club was to meet,
and Don was told to promise each member a cap as soon as the rest could
be made.

Nearly eighty children gathered on the lawn after supper and the new
additions all signed the roll of the club and became members. Doris and
Becky pinned a badge upon each one and told them to wear it wherever
they might go, as a mark of distinction. The thirty caps were also
distributed and some had already provided and brought with them their
white sashes. These preparations filled the youngsters with joy and
made them very proud of belonging to the new organization. Don got
them in line and marched them around the grounds awhile, but the
evenings were short at this time of the year and the children were soon
dismissed with instructions to assemble on Monday after school and to
bring as many new members as could be induced to join.

The badges were worn even to church the next day and aroused much
curiosity; but not a boy nor girl would tell what “T. C. M. C.” meant,
as they had pledged themselves to keep the club and its object a deep
secret until they were ready to parade.

Perhaps it was not wholly a desire to help Toby Clark that animated
these children, although after they were enrolled in the Marching Club
they one and all warmly defended him if his innocence was questioned.
What most attracted them was the club itself, with its glamour of
badges, sashes, caps, “refreshments” at meetings, its drills and
parades and the promises of brass bands and gold medals.

Doris, a conscientious little girl, took Don Daring to task for making
those rash promises, but the boy protested that they would get a band,
somehow or other, and as for the medals he had only said he would ask
“Congress” for them and he meant to keep his word. If “Congress”
refused to present the medals it wouldn’t be his fault, anyhow.

They drilled every afternoon during the following week. Phoebe finished
the caps and supplied sashes to those children who were unable to get
them at home. Becky wheedled Aunt Hyacinth, the black mammy who had
been with the Darings all their lives, into making a hundred cookies
one day and a hundred fried cakes the next, and with these the girls
served lemonade to the Club. Wednesday afternoon Doris again supplied
the refreshments and on Thursday Cousin Judith furnished ice cream for
the whole assemblage. Janet Ferguson, whose interest had been aroused
by the unique idea of the Toby Clark Marching Club, provided the
refreshments for Friday, and Saturday was to be the day of the first
great parade.

But before this the Marching Club received its greatest surprise,
resulting in its greatest impetus. On Thursday Doris Randolph came
running over to the Daring place breathless with excitement and waving
a letter as she met Becky and Don.

“Oh, dear!” she gasped; “what do you suppose has happened?”

“The North Star has gone south,” answered Becky, laughing.

“No; it’s something great–wonderful,” said Doris. “Just listen to this
letter; the postman brought it a minute ago.”

She opened the letter with fluttering fingers and read as follows:

“Miss Doris Randolph,
Treasurer of the Toby Clark Marching Club:

“We beg to inform you that one of our customers, who wishes to
remain unknown, has placed to your credit in Spaythe’s Bank the
sum of Fifty Dollars, to be used for the promotion of the Club as
its officers deem best. Very respectfully,
Spaythe’s Bank,
by Eric Spaythe, Cashier.”

“Well, for goodness sake!” exclaimed Becky. “Fifty dollars! Who do you
s’pose sent it, Doris?”

“I don’t know any more than the letter tells us; but what in the world
will we do with all that money?”

“I know,” said Don, so astonished that he had been speechless until
now; “we’ll hire the Riverdale Cornet Band for Saturday.”

“Good idea,” said Becky. “Let’s go see Ed Collins, the leader of the
band, right away.”

“But–wait!” cried Doris; “don’t let us do anything rash. We’d better
wait until the Club meets this afternoon and let them all vote on it.”

“Nonsense,” said Don. “Don’t the letter say the money’s to be used as
the officers think best? Well, we’re the officers. Where’s Al?”

“I think he is studying his lessons just at present,” said Al’s sister.

“Never mind; we’re the majority; so let’s vote to hire the band,”
proposed Don.




“Better let Allerton into this,” said Becky cautiously. “He’s mighty
sensitive and there’s no use having war in our own camp. As for the
others, they’re all dummies; but it won’t take more than a jiffy to
hunt Al up and get his vote on the proposition.”

“We must all start for school very soon,” said Doris; “and, if you will
wait for us, Allerton and I will join you. Then, on our way, we can
talk it over and decide what is best to be done.”

This being a sensible suggestion, it was adopted and Doris ran across
to her home while Becky flew upstairs to tell Phoebe and the Little
Mother the wonderful news.

“It is certainly strange,” commented Phoebe thoughtfully. “I wonder who
could have sent this money?”

“Never mind who sent it,” cried Becky; “we’ve got it, and we’ll hire
the band, and the whole town will go crazy over the Marching Club on
Saturday!”

Then off she ran to talk it over with Don again, and Cousin Judith said
to Phoebe:

“There may be a clew for you in this donation, my Lady Conspirator.”

“That occurred to me at once,” replied the girl seriously. “No one
would donate fifty dollars to the Marching Club unless greatly
interested in the fate of poor Toby. And who so likely to be interested
in saving him as the one who really took Mrs. Ritchie’s box?”

“In that case, the thief has a conscience and does not wish an innocent
person to suffer for his own fault,” commented Judith. “Therefore,
thinking the Marching Club may assist Toby’s case, the guilty one has
donated fifty dollars to the cause.”

“Perhaps a part of the stolen money,” suggested Phoebe.

“Very likely. The letter says he wishes to conceal his identity, but–”

“The Spaythes must know who it is!” exclaimed Phoebe.

“Of course.”

“I’m going to see Eric right away. He wrote the letter, Cousin Judith,
and Eric knows if anyone does.”

“But will he tell you?”

“He is very much interested in Toby and greatly worried over the way
his case drags. Eric told me the other day he would do anything to save
Toby.”

“Then I advise you to see him.”

Phoebe glanced out of the window. Becky and Don and the two Randolph
children were just starting for school, eagerly canvassing the joyful
news as they went. So Phoebe put on her things and quietly followed
them, wending her way to Spaythe’s bank.

This was a neat brick building, quite the most imposing bit of
architecture in town. At this early hour the doors had just been opened
and no customer had as yet appeared. Eric was back of the cashier’s
desk and greeted the girl with a cheery “good morning.”

“Who gave fifty dollars to the Marching Club, Eric?” she asked.

“Some unknown person, Miss Daring,” he replied with a smile.

“Not unknown to the bank, however,” she said meaningly. “You see, it’s
this way,” Phoebe added, as the young man shook his head positively,
“whoever gave that money knows something, Eric, and we must find out
who it is. Perhaps–”

“Perhaps it’s the thief himself,” returned Eric. “It struck me at
the time as a curious proceeding, in view of the circumstances,” he
continued; “but the truth is, I’m as much in the dark as you are.”

“How _can_ you be?” she protested.

“Yesterday afternoon the governor came in from his private office
and told me to write the letter to Doris Randolph. I worded it just
as I was instructed, but when I asked who was the donor my father
merely frowned and said he must respect the person’s wish to remain
unidentified.”

“Then Mr. Spaythe knows?”

“Undoubtedly. You may question him, if you like; he’s in his private
office now. But I’m sure you won’t learn anything.”

Phoebe sighed. She believed Eric was right in this assertion. Mr.
Spaythe was a man who guarded all confidences with the utmost loyalty.
He would be likely to resent any attempt to penetrate this secret,
Phoebe well knew, and she abandoned any thought of appealing to the
banker.

“The governor is Toby’s friend, you know,” remarked Eric, as he noted
her disappointed expression. “If he has discovered anything, through
this donation, you may be sure he will take advantage of it when the
proper time comes.”

That thought cheered Phoebe somewhat on her way home. But just as she
reached the house another thought intruded itself and she sat down on
the porch bench to think it out.

Mr. Spaythe, although considered far above any breath of suspicion,
actually headed her list of suspects. In other words, the banker was
one of those who knew of the box and that it contained money, and he
might have had the opportunity to steal it. She rapidly ran over in her
mind the arguments she had used for and against the probability of Mr.
Spaythe’s having taken the box, and shook her head doubtfully. There
was much that was suspicious in the banker’s actions. His astonishing
defense of Toby Clark, whom before the arrest he had scarcely noticed,
could not be easily explained.

“The thief–the one we’re after–was a clever person,” mused Phoebe.
“I doubt if he would be reckless enough to go to Mr. Spaythe and ask
him to give that fifty dollars to the Marching Club and to keep his
name secret. Mr. Spaythe would know at once that such a person was the
guilty one. No; it wasn’t the criminal. Some one honestly interested
in Toby’s welfare gave that money, or else–or else it was Mr. Spaythe
himself!”

She tried to consider this last possibility. Mr. Spaythe was not a
charitable man; he seldom or never espoused any cause through pure
philanthropy. There was something beneath this sudden interest in Toby
Clark, a poor and friendless boy, and that something was not mere
kindliness, Phoebe felt sure. He might be politic enough to assist a
wealthy and powerful man in trouble, but not one who, like Toby, could
make him no return. What, then, had impelled the banker to pursue this
generous course toward the accused boy?

Phoebe went in to talk it over with Cousin Judith, but found the house
in a commotion. Old Aunt Hyacinth was sweeping the parlor vigorously,
although this was not sweeping day. Judith, in cap and apron, was
dusting and rearranging the furniture, and Phoebe looked at the
extraordinary scene in amazement.