From a 1903 issue of Appleton’s Magazine:
The Plan was Successful
There are many ways of fixing a misdemeanor upon the person who has committed it. It is commonly thought that lawyers, and not clergymen, are the men most competent for this practice, but the following story leaves one feeling that the honors may be equal:
“Last Sunday,” said the clergyman to his congregation, “someone put a button in the collection-bag. I won’t mention names; I will merely say that only one individual in the congregation could have done so, and I shall expect the same member, after the service, to replace the button with a coin of the realm.”
After church a well-to-do but close-fisted individual sought an interview with the clergyman in the vestry.
“I — er,” he began, “must apologise, sir, for the — er — button, which I can assure you was quite an accident. I happened to have the button in my waistcoat pocket, together with a shilling, and took out the former by mistake. However, sir, here is the shilling.”
“Thank you,” said the clergyman, taking the shilling and gravely handing him the button.
“By the way, sir,” said the man, “I cannot understand how you could have known that it was I who — er — committed the — er — much-to-be-regretted mistake.”
“I didn’t know,” replied the clergyman.
“Didn’t know! But you said, sir, that only one individual in the congregation could have done it.”
“Just so. You see, sir, it is scarcely possible that two individuals could have put one button in the bag; is it, now?” asked the clergyman, with a bland smile.
It was so much easier for the button-contributor to say “good day” than to answer this puzzling question that he made his bow at once.
— London Tit-bits.