A NOBLE SOCIETY
The Jinks Club was having its weekly meeting, and all of the members were present.
"I think," the President was saying, "that we ought to do something that's of some use. It's all very well to cut up jinks to have fun, and we did have a lot of fun on the straw ride last week; but I mean we ought to do some real good in the world."
"But how could we, King?" said Marjorie, looking at her brother in awe.
"There are lots of ways!" declared King. "We might do something public-spirited or charitable."
"I think so, too," said Dick Fulton. "My father was talking last night about the selfishness of citizens."
"Goodness, Dick," said his sister, "we're not citizens!"
"Yes, we are, Gladys. Why aren't we? Everybody born in America is a citizen, whether old or young."
"I never dreamed I was a citizen," said Gladys, giggling. "Did you, Kit?"
"No," said Kitty; "but I'd like to be. Wouldn't you, Dorothy?"
"Yes, indeed. It's nice to be citizens. Sort of patriotic, you know."
"Well," said Midget, "if we're citizens, let's do citizens' work. What do they do, King?"
"Oh, they vote, and——"
"But we can't vote. Of course we girls never can, but you boys can't for years yet. Don't be silly."
"Well, there are other things besides voting," said Dick. "Some citizens have big meetings and make speeches."
"Now you're silly," said Kingdon. "We can't make speeches any more than we can vote. But there must be things that young folks can do."
"We could have a fair and make money for the poor," volunteered Gladys.
"That's too much like work," said King. "Besides, we're all going to be in the Bazaar in December, and we don't want to copy that! And, anyway, I mean something more—more political than that."
"I don't know anything about politics," declared Marjorie, "and you don't, either!"
"I do, too. Father told me all about the different parties and platforms and everything."
"Let's have a platform," said Kitty. "You boys can build it."
King laughed at this, but, as the others had only a hazy idea of what a political platform was, Kitty's suggestion was not heeded.
"I'll tell you," said Dick. "When Father was talking last night, he said if our citizens were public-spirited, they'd form a Village Improvement Society, and fix up the streets and beautify the park and the common, and keep their lawns in better order."
"Now you're talking!" cried King. "That's the sort of thing I mean. And we children could be a little Village Improvement Society ourselves. Of course we couldn't do much, but we could make a start, and then grown-up people might take the notion and do it themselves."
"I think it would be lovely," said Marjorie. "We could plant flowers in the middle of the common, and we'd all water them and weed them, and keep them in lovely order."
"We couldn't plant flowers till next spring," said Gladys. "October's no time to plant flowers."
"It's not a very good time for such work, anyway," said Dick, "for most of the improvement is planting things, and mowing grass, and like that. But there are other things, 'cause Father said that such a society could make all the people who live here keep their sidewalks clean and not have any ashes or rubbish anywhere about."
"I think it's great," said King. "I move we go right bang! into it, and that we first change the name of the Jinks Club to the Village Improvement Society. Then let's keep just the same officers, and everything, and go right ahead and improve."
"Yes," said Marjorie, "and then whenever we want to turn back again to the Jinks Club, why, we can."
"Oh, we won't want to turn back," said King, confidently; "the other'll be more fun."
"All right," said Dick. "I'm secretary, so I'll make out a list of what we can do. How much money is there in the treasury, Midget?"
"Sixty cents," said Marjorie, promptly.
"Huh! Just what we paid in today."
"Yes, you know we spent last week's money going on a trolley ride."
"So we did. Well, we'll have to have more cash, if we're going to improve this town much."
"Then I can't belong," said Marjorie, decidedly. "I've got to begin now to save money for Christmas. I'd rather have it for that than plant flower beds."
"A nice citizen you are!" growled King. "But," he added, "I haven't any extra money, either. Christmas is coming, and that's a fact!"
"Father'll give us Christmas money," said Kitty.
"Yes; but he likes to have us save some of our allowance, too. He says it makes better gifts."
"Well," said Dick, "let's do things that don't cost money, then. Father said the streets and lanes ought to be kept in better order. Let's go around and pick up the old cans and things."
"No, thank you," said Marjorie, turning up her small nose. "I'm no trash-picker."
"I wouldn't do that, either," said Gladys; "that is, unless I had a horse and cart. A pony-cart, I mean; not a dump-cart. But, Dick, I heard Father talking last night, too; and he said a society like that would send out letters to the citizens, asking them to keep their yards in better order."
"That's the ticket, Gladys!" cried Kingdon, admiringly. "You've struck it now. Of course that's the way to accomplish what we are after, in a dignified manner. Let's write a lot of those letters, and then when the people fix their places all up, we'll say that we started the movement."
"All right," said Dick, "I think that's just what Father meant. But he said 'a circular letter.' That means have it printed."
"Oh, well, we can't afford to have it printed. Why, we can't scrape up postage for very many letters. Sixty cents; that would mail thirty letters."
"We can't write more than that," said Marjorie. "That would be five apiece for all of us. And I don't know as Kit and Dorothy write well enough, anyway."
"Dorothy does," said Kitty, generously. "But I write like hen's tracks."
"Well, you can write those that don't matter so much," said Midge, kindly. "I'll tell you, Kitty, you can write the one to Father."
"Pooh, Father doesn't need any. Our place is always in order."
"So is ours!" cried Dick. "And ours!" piped up Dorothy.
"But don't the citizens all have to have letters?" asked Gladys. "If you just pick out the ones who don't keep their lawns nice, they'll be mad."
"No, they won't," said Dick; "or, if they are, why, let 'em be mad."
"I say so, too," agreed King. "If we write to the ones that need writing to, we'll have all we can do. Make out a list of 'em, Dick."
"Put down Mr. Bolton first," said Gladys. "He hasn't mowed his grass all summer. Father says his place is a disgrace to the comminity."
"Community, child," corrected her brother. "But old Bolton's place is awful. So is Crane's."
"Let's write their letters now, and see how they sound," suggested King, who was always in favor of quick action.
The club was meeting in the Maynards' big playroom, so paper and pencils were handy.
"It ought to be in ink, I s'pose," said King, "but I hardly ever use it, it spills about so. Let's take pencil this time."
After many suggestions and corrections on the part of each of the interested members the following letter was achieved:
"Dear Sir: We wish kindly to ask you to keep your place in better order. We are trying to improve our fair city, and how can we do it when places like yours are a disgrace to the community? We trust you will be nice about this, and not get mad, for we mean well, and hope you are enjoying the same blessing."
"That's all right," said Marjorie, as Dick read it aloud. "Now, what do we sign it?"
"Just sign it 'The Village Improvement Society,' that's all," said Gladys.
"Wait a minute," said King. "In all letters of this sort they always abbreviate some words; it looks more business-like."
"Mother hates abbreviations," said Marjorie; "she won't let me say 'phone for telephone, or auto for motor-car."
"That's different," said King. "She means in polite society; talking, you know, or writing notes to your friends."
"Isn't a Village Improvement Society a polite society?" asked Kitty.
"Yes, of course, sister. But I don't mean that. I mean, in a business letter like this they always abbreviate some words."
"Well, abbreviate 'community,' that's the longest word," suggested Dick.
"No, that isn't the right kind of a word to abbreviate. It ought to be something like acc't for account."
"Oh, that kind? Well, perhaps we can use that word in some other letter. But can't we do the abbreviating in the signature? That's pretty long."
"So we can," said King. "Let's sign it, 'The Village Imp. Society.'"
This was adopted, as it didn't occur to any of the children that the abbreviated word might convey an unintended meaning.
Mr. Crane was attended to next, and, as they warmed to their subject, his letter was a little more peremptory. It ran:
"Dear Sir: We're improving our village, and, unless you fix up your place pretty quick, we will call and argue with you. On no acc't let it go another week looking as disreputibil as it now does. We mean well, if you do; but if you don't,—beware!
"The Village Imp. Society."
"That's fine!" exclaimed Gladys, as this effusion was read out. "Now, let's do two more, and then we can each take one for a copy, and make a lot of them, just put different names at the top, you know."
"Let's make a more gentle one," said Marjorie. "Those are all right for men, but there's old Mrs. Hill, she ought to be told pleasantly to fix up her garden and keep her pigs and chickens shut up. We almost ran over a lot of them the other day."
So a gentle petition was framed:
"Dear Mrs. Hill:
"Won't you please be so kind as to straighten out your garden a little? We'd like to see it look neat like Mr. Fulton's, or Mr. Maynard's, or Mr. Adams'. Don't go to too much trouble in this matter, but just kill or shut up your pigs and chickens, and we will all help you if need be.
"The Village Imp. Society."
"That's sweet," said Marjorie; "I like that 'Lovingly yours'; it shows we have no hard feelings."
One more was framed, with a special intent toward the shopkeepers:
"We wish to goodness you'd keep your goods in better order. In front of your store, on sidewalk and gutter, are old fruits, potatoes, and sundry other things too old to be quite nice. So spruce things up, and you will be surprised at the result.
"Yours in good fellowship,
"The Village Imp. Society."
"That's a good business one," said Dick. "Sort of 'man to man,' you know."
"I don't like it as well as some of the others," said Marjorie. "You copy that, Dick, and I'll copy the 'lovingly' one."
Each took a model, and all set to work, except Kitty and Dorothy, who were exempt, as their penmanship was not very legible.
"I'm tired," announced Dick, after an hour's work. "Let's stop where we are."
"All right," said King. "We've enough for the first week, I think. If these work pretty good, we'll do more next Saturday."
They had sixteen letters altogether, addressed to the best and worst citizens of Rockwell, and in high glee they started to the post-office to buy their stamps.
Mrs. Maynard willingly gave permission for them to go the short distance to the post-office, and watched the six well-behaved children as they walked off, two by two.
After the stamps were bought, and the letters posted, they found they still had enough in the treasury for soda water all round, lacking two cents. King generously supplied the deficit, and the six trooped into the drug store, and each selected a favorite flavor.
The club meeting broke up after that, and the children went to their homes, feeling that they had greatly gained in importance since morning. And indeed they had.
That same evening many of the Rockwell people strolled down to the post-office for their mail.
In the small town there were no carriers, and the short trip to the post-office was deemed a pleasure by most.
When Mr. Maynard arrived he was surprised to find men gathered into small groups, talking in loud and almost angry voices.
The pretty little stone building was not large enough to hold them all, and knots of people were on the steps and on the small grass plot in front.
"It's outrageous!" one man was saying. "I never heard of such impudence in a civilized town!"
"Here comes Mr. Maynard now," said another, "let's ask him."
Mr. Maynard smiled pleasantly as the belligerent ones approached him.
They were men whom he knew by name.
"Look here," said John Kellogg, "I've just got this 'ere note, and some kid yonder says it's the handwritin' of your son, and I want ter know ef that's so!"
"It certainly looks like my son's writing," said Mr. Maynard, still smiling pleasantly, though his heart sank as he wondered what those children had been up to now.