Late Tuesday afternoon, she and Mariah came into the entryway of the lodge. Bookworm was dripping with sweat, and more than ready for a bath, while Mariah barely looked winded. Book glanced at the table by the door, and saw a letter addressed to her, bearing familiar handwriting. She picked it up eagerly.
"I told your parents we were meeting here this week," Mariah said. "Were you expecting a letter from them?"
"I was, as a matter of fact," she replied. "Thank you for letting them know."
Mariah nodded. "Dinner is in an hour."
Bookworm went upstairs to her room, as fast as her aching legs would allow. Once there, she sank down gratefully into a chair, opened the envelope, and pulled out two slips of paper. She read the one, and looked at the other, and a soundless whistle pursed her lips. She half-rose from the chair, an eager look on her face.
But then she frowned, and sank down again. Book stared at the slips of paper for several minutes, lost in thought. Then, with a decided motion, she stuffed them both back in the envelope, and tucked the envelope into her bag.
A few days passed, and it was the last day of her training. Half-day, really--she was leaving in the afternoon. She and Mariah were engaged in some target practice when the messenger arrived. "Telegram for Miss Hienrichs," said the young man, looking from one to the other of them. Bookworm stepped forward and took the paper from his hand.
"What's that?" Mariah asked.
"I asked Miss Netizen to telegram me with the final tally of donations," Bookworm said. "Don't go," she told the messenger as he half-turned away. "I may have a reply." She scanned the telegram, then handed it to Mariah, who whistled loudly.
"$31,860L! That is quite an amount!" Mariah exclaimed. Bookworm nodded abstractedly, her eyes contemplating the sky as she made some mental calculations. Finally, she nodded with satisfaction and returned her gaze to the messenger.
"Please send this reply to Miss Sky Netizen of New Babbage. 'Tell Steamweaver and others--upon return, will also match that amount.'" Bookworm heard Mariah's astonished gasp behind her, and grinned to herself as she settled accounts with the messenger and sent him on his way.
"How on earth will you do that?" Mariah asked incredulously.
"The letter I got from my parents," Book replied. "When I made the wager with Mr. Steamweaver, the first thing I did was telegraph them and tell them what was up. After all, he never said I had to confine my fundraising to New Babbage." She grinned. "That letter contains the fruits of their labor on my behalf; my friends back there were very generous. I do need to dip a little into my savings to truly match it, but I'm more than willing to do that."
"But...you got that letter three days ago! You could have gone back to Babbage, put that money in the donation box, and really made him pay through the nose!"
Bookworm nodded. "I could have. Believe me, I considered it. But I decided that enough was enough. We've made our point to Mr. Steamweaver, I think. Money talks, and we've given him a clear, clarion call. To have put that much more in would only have added insult to injury. Contributing it now, though--"
"Ahh," Mariah broke in. "Charity and diplomacy in one move."
"I hope so. Whether Mr. Steamweaver will take it that way...well, we'll see." Bookworm smiled wryly. "Time to pack up, I think?"
Mariah nodded, and accompanied Bookworm into the lodge.