STEALTHY PROWLERS

It happens sometimes that a sudden decision has far-reaching
consequences for good or evil. On the other hand, an organization
started upon an impulse and with no particular purpose might easily
die an early death, with no special consequences. It was probably due
to the character of these girls that their little club, so impulsively
formed, should bring them some happy adventures, as well as some odd
ones, with a mystery of which they could have no idea now.

There were two points about which the girls were thinking: what they
should do, and what the S. P. should mean. Naturally it should have
some connection with the purpose of the club, provided it was to have
any. It was queer, Jean said, how many things S. P. could mean. Who
would have thought of it? The boys missed no opportunity to tease them
by concocting different combinations. Other girls asked Jean or Nan
what was going on and they explained, “It is just a simple little club
that we are beginning to work on a little, and we are not telling
much, about it yet. No, it isn’t a sorority and won’t be like one.”

“I’ve made _more explanations_, Jean,” said Molly, when they all met on
Saturday at the Dudley place, “and when there isn’t anything much to
explain, what can a body do? I do hope nobody feels left out!”

“You couldn’t help that, Molly, if any one wanted to feel that way,
about any club. It seems all right to me to have one and we’re not
going to act any different from before. You’re an old dear, Molly, and
you are used to the church societies, where it’s come one come all.”

“They are the best, then.”

“Of course they’re the best. As Dad says sometimes, ‘You can’t
start an argument with me on that, Jean.’ The thing is–let’s
see–‘self-evident’.”

But Molly enjoyed the fun as much as any of the rest and it began at
once. Saturday’s meeting at the Dudley home was like another party,
Fran said. Jean, who had felt so shy with Mrs. Dudley, was made to feel
at home by her cordial way of meeting the girls.

“So you are the young lady who started this mysterious club, are you?”
she asked. “Leigh will not confide the name, only the initials. If
there is anything that I can do to help the fun along, let me know,
Madam President!”

The bit of formality about Mrs. Dudley made her only the more
“fascinating,” Jean confided to Nan later on; but the girls were taken
at once to Leigh’s own room, where they exclaimed in little oh’s and
ah’s over her pretty arrangements. “Papa let me plan it,” said Leigh,
pleased that the girls liked her room. “When he built the house he told
Mamma and me that we might as well have just exactly what we had always
wanted. So as I had wanted certain things, I planned it out. Do you
like my long window-seat?”

“It’s like a real living room, Leigh,” said Nan, “with your fireplace
and mantel, and your built-in bookcases. I love the _chaise longue_!
Here is the beautiful movie heroine, reclining in her boudoir!”–and
Nan gracefully sank into the damask-covered arms of the article of
furniture mentioned, arranging imaginary draperies over her feet.

“Don’t, Nan,” laughed Bess. “I’m growing hilarious now and Leigh’s
mother will be shocked at our laughing so much, especially when the
secretary reads the names the S. P.’s have been called.”

“Don’t worry about Mamma,” said Leigh. “She thinks that I have not had
enough fun with the girls since I have been here; but you all were such
old friends that I felt,–well, you know how a stranger would feel.”

“Especially a nice stranger like you,” warmly said Jean. “But you are
one of us now.”

No more time was lost. The president with quite an air called the
meeting to order, asking at once for the report of the secretary. Nan,
still occupying the admired piece of furniture, languidly read her
report, which was so funny that her hearers were convulsed. Nan had
quite a gift as scribe. No funny detail of how the S. P.’s started was
omitted. Shaking with repressed laughter, they felt that they could not
miss a word and Jean’s voice shook as she said, “You have heard the
report of the secretary,”–then she could not go on, and Molly moved
that it be accepted.

“We have had some valuable suggestions from our friends, the Black
Wizards,” ran the report. “Some were complimentary, some quite
otherwise. In planning the charades for the school party, Billy Baxter
told Jean that he would get all those Sweet Patooties, Smart Prodigies,
or Serpentine Pythons on his side, and Jean told him that she did not
mind being called a sweet potato, but she drew the line on being
either a prodigy or a python. Mr. French asked about the Serious
Pedagogues and Judge Gordon wanted to know more about the Seraphic
Peris. He had to explain to Jean that a peri is a kind of fairy! But we
feel that the judge appreciates us.

“We have seen the boys double up over some of their
brilliant–interrogation point–thoughts on S. P. and heard ourselves
called Some Pumpkins, Sweet Peas, Syrupy Pancakes, Serious Problems,
Sleepy Possums, Sour Persimmons, Sappy Poets, Saucy Palmists, and by
our principal, who deigned to listen one time, Soulful Psyches,–which
wasn’t so bad.

“So if the S. P.’s wanted what the secretary’s editor father calls
‘publicity,’ they have had it. Father threatens, as it is, to write it
up in the paper.”

After the secretary’s report had been duly accepted and Jean had
remarked that she would not call for a treasurer’s report, as there
could not possibly be any money in the treasury, Phoebe, who sat on the
floor near the fire, gave a bit of advice.

“The funny part of Nan’s report, Jean, is her write-up of you and
Billy and your ‘reaction,’ as she calls it, to the news of the Black
Wizards. I’d advise you not to let Mr. Standish, or Jimmy, get hold of
it.”

“Jean needn’t worry, Phoebe,” said Nan. “Father thinks all the stuff
I write is silly, and anyhow I destroyed all my notes. This new S. P.
notebook is to be kept locked up in my desk.”

Bess, Fran and Phoebe, the committee on what the S. P.’s should do,
asked for a “general discussion” first. Molly, by this time having laid
aside conscientious scruples about a secret club, said that as far
as she was concerned she’d rather just have a good time. That was a
popular suggestion and was applauded.

Jean, however, said that you had to have some program even for good
times. “I can’t think, for the life of me, any S. P. name that will
mean anything much, and if the rest of you can’t let’s let it go right
now. How would it do for the present to fix up our attic for all sorts
of funny things, maybe witches’ quarters if the boys have wizards. We
could even give a party there to all the boys and girls. Then Mother
suggested that when it gets too hot for meetings in the attic we could
be an outdoor club and take hikes and do things that girls and boys do
now. We’ve been doing them anyhow, a little, like our beach parties
over on Michigan, and our breakfast hikes to our own little lake. But
it would be lots more fun to do things as a club.”

“I have a lot of nature books, girls,” said Leigh, brightening. “How
would you like to start a little library in our club room and read up
on what girls study in some of the camps?”

“Fine, Leigh!” exclaimed several girls. “We ought to be up to date!”
said Fran.

“I have a tree book,” said Molly. “I never read it, though.”

“Molly’s turning frivolous,” said Phoebe. “All she wants to do is to
make fudge and be a witch.”

Molly, surprised, looked at Phoebe to see if she were being critical,
but Phoebe’s grin reassured her. “You have to be on too many programs
as it is, Molly, to want to improve yourself outside of school,–isn’t
that so?” Phoebe continued, and Molly nodded.

“But I like hikes, Phoebe, and I really ought to know what there is to
see around town and the lakes.”

“Let _me_ tell you something,” said Bess. “As I went down street on
errands this morning I met Miss Haynes. You ought to have seen her. She
had on old high shoes, an old hat and a heavy sweater. Some sort of a
case was swung around her shoulders and her pockets were stuffed full
of something. When she saw me she just grinned, nodded and went on, and
she was headed out of town, toward the lake. Imagine, on a day as damp
and chilly as this! Of course, _we_ do it, whenever we feel like it,
and we skate and all in the winter; but she was going all alone, and I
just thought to myself, there must be something to see, or she’d never
go just for her health or a walk. It’s muddy as anything out that road.”

“More ideas!” cried Nan. “How would it do for the committee to talk to
Miss Haynes? She’s the science teacher since Mr. Peters left and maybe
she’ll take us out on a hike. He did once in our freshman year, only I
think that he didn’t know much about anything.”




“That was the reason they let him go, I think,” wisely remarked Molly.
“I imagine Miss Haynes is getting ready for some field work with the
class.”

“I never heard of field work,” said Bess, “but I’m for it! Hurrah for
hikes and fires and food and we can at least prowl around and pretend
to have an ‘object’.”

“Oh, Bess. That makes me think! You say ‘prowl around’,–why not
Prowlers? S. Prowlers,–_what_ are prowlers, that begin with S?
Still–silent–searching–slinking–slippery.”

Jean paused for breath and Phoebe suggested “sprightly,” or “stalking.”

“Get the dictionary, somebody,” laughed Bess. “We’re going to ‘acquire
a vocabulary,’ as our English teacher recommends, if we keep on.”

“Steady,” continued Jean, still thinking, and now clutching her hair
in a pretense of great concentration. “Aha! How about Stealthy? The
‘Stealthy Prowlers’? That isn’t so bad, is it? If we want to see any of
the wild things in the woods around the lake, or even on the beach of
Lake Michigan, we’ll have to do some prowling.”

“I can’t say that I think it very pretty,” said Molly.

“It isn’t. I’m sorry that I got you girls into those initials.”

“It’s all the funnier, Jean,” said Frances.

“Why, I rather like it,” Leigh added. “‘Stealthy Prowlers’ has a touch
of mystery, as my mother would say. Let’s be it, for a while anyhow,
but we’ll never tell a soul, shall we?”

“After all the names that we’ve said yes or no to, just for the fun
of it, nobody would believe that this was our real name anyhow. And
aren’t witches a sort of prowlers? Why not prowlers with a good purpose
as well as prowlers with bad ones?”

“Put down Stealthy Prowlers, Nan,” said Bess, “as our best suggestion
yet, and let’s get to talking about our attic club room. But Jean, you
and Nan have more opportunity to see Miss Haynes than the committee
does. Please see her about the hikes. She might even know about Scout
work and be willing to camp with us somewhere.”

“That’s a great suggestion, Bess!” Leigh exclaimed. “Mother never would
let me go to a summer camp, but she might, near home, as it would be
here.”

S. P. ideas were growing. Jean and Nan promised to see Miss Haynes on
Monday; and then the planning was directed to immediate affairs with
the arranging and furnishing of the club room, the time of meetings,
whether they should have refreshments or not, and kindred matters to be
decided. Jean was to be spared some things, for it would not be fair,
the girls said, for her to be at all the trouble, or expense, if there
were any, about the room. It was enough for her to offer the room. But
Jean informed them that the furniture was there and the room doing no
one any good. “Mother is having the attic all cleaned for us to-day,”
she announced, “and this morning we decided that it was foolish to keep
a lot of things that might do somebody some good. So you ought to see
the clearance! But all the furniture that can be fixed for us, and some
trunks of things that will be lovely for us to dress up in will still
be there.”

“I adore an attic!” sighed Leigh. Then a neat maid came to the door to
announce that tea was ready, and the girls of the S. P. Club had their
first dainty meal together in their official relation.