Gateway to the Classics: The Tale of Peter Mink by Arthur Scott Bailey
The Tale of Peter Mink by  Arthur Scott Bailey

Passing the Hat

A FTER giving all they happened to have in their pocket-books, Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Woodchuck began to pass their hats to take up the collection for the poor boy that Peter Mink had been telling them about. And all the people who had come to hear Peter's lecture began to dig down into their pockets.

"That's right!" Peter cried. "Give what you can! Of course, I don't expect the poor people to give as much as the rich."

That made everybody decide that he would give all he had with him. And many people wished they had brought more. Besides, no one wanted to be thought stingy, like Uncle Jerry Chuck, who had hurried away as soon as he suspected that there was going to be a collection.

When Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Woodchuck had passed their hats to every person present, their hats were filled to the brim. And they marched proudly up to the stump where Peter Mink still stood.

Peter jumped down to the ground.

"Keep your seats, everybody!" he called. "The next thing to be done is to count this money. And I will do that myself." So Peter picked up the two hats and started away.

"Where are you going?" Mr. Rabbit asked him.

"Just a little way into the woods," said Peter. "It's so noisy here, with all this talking, that I might make a mistake."

"We'll go with you and help you," Mr. Rabbit told him.

"Oh, you don't need to do that," said Peter Mink.

But Mr. Rabbit insisted.

"One of those hats is mine," he remarked. "And wherever it  goes, I go, too," And he beckoned to Mr. Woodchuck to follow.

Well, Peter Mink didn't like that very well. You see, he had planned to go into the woods alone with the money. And nobody likes to have his plans upset. But there was nothing he could say. So they all three went into a thicket of elderberry bushes and counted the money.

"I thought there was more," Peter said. "Maybe we dropped some of the money. You and Mr. Woodchuck had better go back and see if you can find any," he told Mr. Rabbit.

But Mr. Rabbit said that they could just as well all go back together and search along the ground as they went.

"All right!" said Peter Mink. "We'll leave these hatfuls right here for a while."

But Mr. Rabbit said he didn't think that would be a safe thing to do. So he picked up one hatful, and told Mr. Woodchuck to carry the other.

Peter Mink didn't like that at all. But there was nothing he could say. So they all went back together to the place where the rest of the people were still waiting. And they found no more money, either.

Mr. Rabbit jumped up on the stump where Peter had stood and talked.

"The question is," he said, "who is going to take charge of all this money?"

"I am!" said Peter Mink.

But Mr. Rabbit said he didn't think that would be safe.

"You have no home, you know," he told Peter. "And you can't very well carry the money about with you. I must have my hat back; and no doubt Mr. Woodchuck will want his, too."

Mr. Woodchuck nodded his head. He certainly did want his hat. It was the best one he had.

"I would suggest—" said Mr. Rabbit then—"I would suggest that I take one hatful home with me, and that Mr. Woodchuck take the other to his house. Then we'll each have our hats; and the money will be perfectly safe."

"That's a good idea!" Peter Mink said. "The only trouble with it is that it won't do at all. For you and Mr. Woodchuck don't know the poor boy. So how could you ever give him the money?"

Everybody said that was so.

"This Peter Mink is certainly a bright young fellow," people told one another.

Mr. Rabbit looked puzzled.

"What do you  suggest, then?" he asked Peter.

Peter Mink smiled. He seemed pleased, for one reason or another.

"This stump," he said, "is hollow. As you can all see, there's a small hole in it. We can put the money in there and nobody can get it out. It will be the same as in a bank."

Mr. Rabbit looked at the hole in the stump.

"I know I  can't get through that hole," he said. "But what about you, young fellow?" he asked Peter.

"Oh, I can't squeeze through such a small hole as this," said Peter. "See!" He pushed his nose part way through the hole. And there his head seemed to stick. He could have squirmed through if he had really tried. But nobody else seemed to know it.

"But how is the poor boy ever going to get his money?" Mr. Rabbit inquired.

"Oh, he's very slim," Peter Mink said. "He  can get inside the stump. Don't you worry about him!"

Everybody seemed satisfied. So they dropped the money through the hole.

And then Mr. Rabbit said:

"When are you going to bring the poor boy to get the money?"

"To‑morrow night would be a good time," Peter Mink said. "Would you all like to come here to‑morrow night at this same hour?"

And everybody said, "Yes!"

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