THE “GRAND” SURPRISE

No one felt like working while waiting for the final day of receiving
grade cards. Senior affairs and Jimmy’s graduation concerned Nan and
the Standish household, though Jimmy seemed to have little concern
about it. But then, Jimmy wasn’t a girl, with gowns and slippers and
other things to think about.

S. P. affairs had a lull the first of the last week of school, till
Judge Gordon asked Jean at breakfast Wednesday morning if the club
really had a name, and Jean told him that it had too many already, but
the Stealthy Prowlers was the only one that was appropriate to their
outdoor purposes. “The trouble is that we decided on the initials
first.”

The judge gave Jean a comical look. “No doubt you had a good reason,”
he said. “Perhaps if you had a respectable motto it would help. I can’t
say that I admire your name.”

“I don’t either, Daddy. What could we have for a motto?”

The judge went into the other room and got out his Latin lexicon from
the book-cases there. Jean did not disturb him while he turned the
pages and scribbled a little on the back of an envelope.

“Here is one that you might have,” he said at last, turning over the
envelope and writing the words in a large hand.

“If you must ‘prowl,’ you might say, ‘_Pro bono, non malo,
circumcursamus_.’ It means ‘we prowl, or run around for good and not
for evil.’

“Or here is another Latin sentence that might do. Of course, I’m making
them up. It isn’t from the classics. ‘_Bonum non malum insequimur_’
sounds still better, but only means ‘we follow good, not evil.’ How do
you like these?”

“Fine. We need some mottos for our club room anyhow.”

“Why not ‘_Sans peur_’?” suggested Mrs. Gordon, who had followed her
husband and daughter into the living room.

“Oh, Mother!” cried Jean. “Why didn’t I think of that before? Here
we’ve been studying French and everything! It begins with S. P., you
know.”

“Sure enough,” smiled Judge Gordon, who did not mind in the least that
Jean showed more enthusiasm over her mother’s suggestion than his own.
“Why don’t you make that the name of your club as well?”

“The girls will like it,” said Jean, sitting down in a chair with a
beatific expression. “And the boys will be surprised. Since the party
they’ve been calling us the Sibyl Prophetesses or Priestesses, and
Billy said, ‘Come now Jean, isn’t “sibyl” a part of it’?”

“_Sans peur_ will be a fine motto for you wild hikers,” concluded Judge
Gordon, rising and patting the young shoulder as he passed Jean to
leave the room for the hall. “I must go to the office. Better call a
meeting, Jean, and change Stealthy Prowlers to something better.”

“The boys said that the ‘Seven Sibyls’ would be better, with S. S. for
our initials, but I told them that we expected to be more than seven
members after a while.”

“I’d suggest ‘_sans souci_,’ ‘without a care,’ then, for those
initials,” said Mrs. Gordon. The judge was out of the house by this
time.

“We have to stay S. P., Mother, for a very good reason,” said Jean,
thinking of Billy and her first committing of the girls to a club,
“but the sibyl part is only for initiations and things like that. Each
sibyl has charge of a department, and it is a very good scheme. But you
mustn’t tell anything I tell you.”

“Never,” promised Mrs. Gordon.

Some of the girls were not so much in favor of making the motto the
name of the club, but they were agreed that even if _sans peur_
remained only the motto, it gave the excuse for calling themselves the
S. P. Club. “I move,” said Phoebe, “that we decide on our pin and have
it an American eagle, because we have so many around our lakes, and
then have a little pennant or banner or some little place in the pin
with ‘_Sans Peur_’ on it.”

“The eagle will stand for our bird hunting, too,” said Bess.

“It is a good motto, too,” said Molly, “if we are off camping. We can
add it all if we want to, ‘_Sans peur et sans reproche_.’ Not to be
afraid and not to do anything to bring reproach isn’t so bad for us to
remember. Girls, Mother said to-day that she thought it pretty sure,
maybe she said sure, that everybody will let us go!”

Thursday came, with its graduation exercises. Friday saw the girls
going after their reports. There seemed to be some repressed excitement
among the Black Wizards, though everything was so irregular anyway that
it was not particularly noticeable.

“I hope you girls have a good time to-morrow,” said Billy with a grin
at Jean, as he left the schoolgrounds with Danny Pierce.

“We’re not going on a hike or anything, Billy,” replied Jean, but Billy
just nodded and went on.

“Billy looked so funny when he said that,” said Jean to Molly. “Do you
suppose he meant anything was going to happen? What could the boys do?”

“I’m sure I don’t know. The boys are going to entertain us when they
get their camp finished, I’m sure. But they would send us invitations,
I should think.”

“Of course they would,” said Nan, “though, knowing Jimmy, I will say
that they can do some very unexpected things.”

“And Jimmy would say the same thing about girls, Nan.”

“Yes, he would. Oh, Jean, I wish we could afford to get our pins now,
don’t you? But the books come first, and we’ll need all we can raise
for the camping equipment, though we can count on help for that.”

“Never mind, Nan; we might lose our pins camping, and we may change our
minds again, and there wouldn’t be any chance to show them to anybody
till school begins!”

The girls laughed over Jean’s conclusions and agreed that they had
some point. The groups of boys and girls separated for the most part.
The next move was taking home the reports, some to praise, some to
disappointment, as it always happens. But the Black Wizards and the S.
P.’s had some pride of scholarship.

Saturday morning dawned as a beautiful June day can, clear, bright,
fragrant with flowers, musical with bird songs and fairly cool with a
fresh breeze from the lakes. “I wish we had planned to do something
to-day,” said Jean to her father. “We were so lazy yesterday, after
Commencement.”

“Drive out into the country with me,” said the judge. “I’m leaving
about nine o’clock. Your mother’s going with me. Like to take any of
the girls along?”

“Oh, yes, of course. But we can only get five in the back part, three
on the back seat.”

The judge laughed. “You are a great girl. You want the whole seven, I
suppose. Why don’t you call up Leigh and ask her if her folks can’t
come along? We might make a picnic of it. I’m going to look at a piece
of land and I wouldn’t mind having Dudley along.”

“But doesn’t he have to be at the bank?”

“Don’t I have to be at my office? Presidents of banks, my dear, aren’t
really as necessary to the daily job as cashiers and a few others.”

“How lucky for them. Why, do I dare suggest anything like a picnic to
the Dudleys? And is Mother willing?”

“Ask her.”

“I will put up a lunch if Mrs. Dudley will,” said Mrs. Gordon with an
expression of amusement that Jean did not understand at the time. In a
moment Jean was at the telephone.

“Why, isn’t that luck for you, Leigh!” Jean was heard exclaiming. “Has
just asked you if you wouldn’t like a ride into the country? Well,
anybody would on a day like this. Whom do you want to take? Phoebe, I
suppose? All right. I’ll get Nan and Molly, then, if you want to take
the rest.” Jean flew out of the open front door without stopping to
explain, for she knew that her parents could overhear what she said to
Leigh.

Mrs. Gordon was at the telephone herself as soon as Jean had gone. She
sent several messages rapidly, but was in the kitchen packing a large
basket when Jean returned. “My, you’re taking a lot of things!” Jean
exclaimed.

“With the Dudleys, my dear, I want to have something to offer, you see.
It is a good thing I did my baking yesterday.”

“Why, so you did. When did you ever do that before? I’m glad now that
you wouldn’t cut that cake for supper. And I don’t suppose the girls
will have a chance to bring much. I told Nan and Molly that I’d take
enough for them. Was that all right?”

“Perfectly. Make a few more cheese sandwiches, Jean, and we’ll soon be
ready. I think I’ll put in those cookies, too. We can buy something
for Sunday if we’re all eaten out of baked things.” Mrs. Gordon said
nothing about the fat meat loaf in the bottom of the basket or the
chicken which she had fried while Jean was at Nan’s Friday afternoon.
She looked like a little older edition of Jean as she hurried around
with flushed cheeks.

Presently they were all out upon the pretty river road, the Dudley
car overtaking them. The girls leaned out to call to each other, as
the machines drew abreast for a short distance. “I think we’ll go on
to what the youngsters call Baldy for our lunch, Dudley. What do you
think?” asked Judge Gordon.

“You could not find a better place,” Mr. Dudley replied. “Take the
lead. I’ll follow.”

So the two gentlemen were not looking up the “piece of land” at once.
The girls were quite satisfied, but wished that they had thought to
bring their bathing suits. They crossed the river by the big bridge,
took a roundabout route by fairly good roads through the beautiful,
undulating country with its frequent pools and tiny lakes. Stretches of
woodland or pastures and fields were equally attractive, but at length
they came to the thick woods where a road ran in for a little way, then
changed from lane to footpath.

“Isn’t this the grandest woods?” asked Jean, whose favorite adjective
was “grand.” The other girls agreed that it was and that it was a shame
they could not come more often to this lake. Yet it was too far for
an ordinary hike and the machines of the parents were not available,
as a rule. These facts were mentioned, and the girls did not notice a
lad who viewed the party from a woodsy distance and then noiselessly
slipped away to give the word.

The two fathers carried the two large baskets, while the two mothers
and girls brought the light blankets used in the cars in cool weather.
These would do to spread upon the ground. Various small articles which
had not found room in the basket were distributed. “My, but we’re going
to have a big lunch!” cried Nan. “It’s a regular S. P. picnic. I wish
my mother and father could ever get away for one. Poor Dad! Always at
the office!”

The girls ran on ahead, as girls do. The mothers and fathers exchanged
glances. “It worked out better than I was afraid it would,” said Mrs.
Gordon. “Jean doesn’t suspect a thing.”

“I’m relieved that the secrecy is over, though,” said Mrs. Dudley with
a smile. “Now we’ll see how they like it. I hope everybody is here. You
took us for a fine ride around, Judge Gordon.”

“I tried to give everybody time enough, Mrs. Dudley.” The judge looked
at his watch. “Just eleven. They’ll be here. I suppose that the boys
have been having their scouts out to watch us and report. Jimmy
Standish was the only one who had to wait, on Nan’s account, and drive
his father and mother.”

It took probably ten minutes of walking through the woods by the pretty
trail before they came to the sloping shores of the lake that stretched
its shining ripples so invitingly before them. “Why, Mother!” exclaimed
Jean, looking to the left toward a cleared space, “Someone has been
building a summer cottage! Oh, it must be the Black Wizards!” For Judge
Gordon gave a little whistle and from behind the house the boys came
running, Jimmy and Billy in the lead.

“How do you like the house, Jean?” asked Billy, all grins.

“Grand! What a beautiful surprise! It will beat our Attic Party to
smithereens! Why, this is wonderful of you, to get up a surprise
picnic like this. Oh, it’s a cute little cottage. I hope you will take
us inside of it.”

“We certainly will.”

The other boys were in similar conversation with the other S.
P.’s–but here came other folks around the house. The various fathers
and mothers! The S. P.’s gasped. The boys had not left them out in
celebrating the finishing of their summer camp! All the S. P. parents,
all the Black Wizard parents, so far as they could tell in a hasty
glance at the group, were there.

But Judge Gordon was coming to the front and raising his hand. “I think
that some explanation is due these surprised girls of ours. They ought
to know that their energy and that of our boys has made some of us
parents realize what should be done to help them. Among other things
we have seen that the outdoor movements are a good thing, properly
managed, and we decided to help a little there.

“Then it happens that both boys and girls have been talking about
books, and it made us see that there was not even a proper school
library of reference books to say nothing of a library in the town
where they could gather for reading. Your little nature library, girls,
and the boys’ few books on adventure and history have started more than
you knew. Some of us fathers got together the other day. We are all of
us, boys and girls and older boys and girls, going to start raising
money together next fall, or even before, for a public library; and
probably we shall not stop there, with our progressive town paper to
back us.” The judge waved his hand at Mr. Standish as he said this.

“And whether S. P. refers to sugar plums, sweet peas, seraphic peris
or a sane purpose and secure partnership, we give them the credit for
calling our attention to the needs of our little city. They have shown
us _Stirring Possibilities_ and have already assured us some _Social
Progress_! I understand that they are intending to enlarge their club
with that purpose. Jean, can you tell us what your club stands for?”

Jean, absolutely surprised, thought for a moment that she could not say
a word. It was dreadful of her father to ask her to make a speech. But
while she hesitated, led out from the midst of the girls by Nan, her
father said, “No speech, Jean; but you are the president, I believe.”

“Yes, sir. Why,–some of us a good while ago had been wishing that we
knew more about what other girls were doing and something suddenly
decided us to have a club. That was all. Then, of course, having
started it, we kept on and Miss Haynes helped us find out about a great
many things, and we decided to raise money for a library. First it was
just our own and then we wondered if we couldn’t do something about a
school library. But it is wonderful that all of you are thinking about
a town library and all I can say for us girls is that we will help all
we can, and make fudge by the–quart, and everything! And thank you for
the surprise of this picnic.” Jean’s usually quick mind could think of
nothing more to say and she stepped back in some confusion.

“Just a moment, girls, now that you are getting used to surprises,”
said the judge. “I believe that I will ask the editor to tell you whose
summer cottage this is,–Mr. Standish.”

Jean gasped again. Now she knew. This was not the Black Wizard shack.
The tall judge stepped back and the wiry, slight, editor, Nan’s
father, stepped forward from a group. “This should all be very
informal,” said he, “as it is a picnic occasion. It seems to fall to me
to announce to our girls that the S. P. Club owns this little cottage
and that it is a gift from the S. P. fathers and mothers, who have
fitted it up very simply. The boys helped build it and I assure you
that we all had a time of it to keep it a secret, but I believe that
it was done. We hope that it will be a happy surprise to you and that
you may have a very good time of it this summer. The boys want me to
announce to you that they, too, have a camp about a mile around the
lake from here and that after you have looked at your new house, the
picnic will be held there.”

As Mr. Standish closed, Jean looked at her father, who nodded
encouragingly. She felt stunned as well as happy to know that this
summer camp was theirs, but her mind had been working this time. “Oh,”
she began impulsively, “you know how we must feel, Mr. Standish, more
like crying for joy! I couldn’t say anything if I weren’t the president
and have to. We’ll all be thanking our fathers and mothers separately,
and every one of the boys for helping do this. So all I’m saying now
is just thank you, everybody!”

Jean turned to her mother and put her head on that comfortable shoulder
for a minute, but a sudden thought made her swallow the lump in her
throat and she turned to Nan and the rest of the astonished, ecstatic
girls. “Oh, say, girls, let me whisper something to you,” and she
whispered to Nan, who nodded and passed the word on to the nearest
girl, while Jean told someone else. That message no one but the S. P.’s
were ever to know. “Let’s never tell the boys that we knew they were
building,” said Jean. It was not much, to be sure, but no unpleasant
note of rivalry could ever be struck between the S. P.’s and the Black
Wizards!




The commotion now began. The girls were beckoned into the little house
that was theirs by the parents, who wanted to see how they liked it.
The boys scattered, some of them taking the baskets and wraps brought
by the Dudleys and Gordons. These were carried to the other camp by
boat, for a little fleet of row-boats, canoes and one small motor boat
was waiting to take the picnickers to where the other “opening” was to
be celebrated.

“Daddy, I forgot to tell them about our motto. And you thought up the
best name yet for us, a Social Progress Club.”

“That daughter, was on the spur of the moment. Was it too much to give
you such a big surprise with no warning?”

“Oh, it is just too wonderful. I can’t tell you how happy I am, and I
know the other girls feel the same way. Just look at them!”

The summer cottage stood facing the path and lane in a measure, but
with its back to the lake. It was explained that the road was to be
widened, to permit of driving to the house with supplies and that it
seemed better to have the front face in that direction. “But your
screened sleeping porch is toward the lake,” one of the fathers showed
them, “and your main room out upon the water.”

Neat, trim, painted white, with golden brown storm shutters, and
made of boards closely set, the little house justified the girls’
exclamations. It was not plastered inside, but it was tight and snug
against ordinary winds. One immense room with a pantry and a large
closet opening at one side, and the long sleeping porch across the
back, constituted the interior. “That big closet, girls, could be
made into a bathroom,” said Mrs. Dudley, “if a water system could be
arranged some time. But you will be glad of all the hooks in there,
now, and a place for your luggage. Be careful of that coal-oil stove,
and the big range will keep you warm in a cold spell. There is money
for a little set of dishes and some kitchenware, and we thought that it
would be more fun for you to buy it yourselves and fix up the place. Do
you like the color the boys painted the floor?”

The girls liked everything; what fun it was going to be, to buy things
for their summer cottage.

“Notice,” said one mother, “that there are keys and also bolts on all
the doors. We feel much safer to have you in a house like this. With
Grace here and the boys only a mile away, you ought to be safe. Jimmy
said something about rigging up a telephone, and I hope they do it.”

“To think that our fathers, as well as the boys, drove some of the
nails in this!” rather sentimentally said Leigh. “I’d like to stay
right out here to-night!”

“You would find it rather inconvenient, Leigh,” laughed her mother.
“We did not like to buy blankets and things and leave them here. There
is time enough.”

So there was. After lingering looks all around, the girls were willing
to leave in the boats for the other camp, where they were shown all
over the little peninsula which the boys had chosen as a site. The
boys’ “Shack,” as they called it was not as smooth as the girls’ and as
yet unpainted, but it was well built, for they had had the assistance
of carpenters on this as on the other. The main room was more open and
the boys would sleep in bunks. “Got lots of windows, you see, and if it
rains in, it can’t hurt our floor.”

“Lookout for what you call your port holes, Billy,” said Nan, to Billy,
who had made this remark. “You want to keep the rain from your bunks at
least.”

The picnic was held outdoors, on a slope which overlooked the lake.
There were not so many Black Wizard parents as the girls had at first
supposed, but most of the sisters had come, and the S. P.’s decided
to invite some of them to visit their camp during the weeks there, if
Grace were willing. It would be such a shame to keep all that fun to
themselves. “We could have them all, in relays, couldn’t we, Jean?”
asked Nan.

“We certainly could, and several are the right age to join the S. P.’s.
Daddy just told me that he and Mr. Standish and Mr. Dudley and Mr.
Baxter have bought up a lot of the land around this end of the lake, to
make it safe and keep it wild for us, and to put up a few more little
shacks if we want any more campers. I’m so stunned over it that I don’t
know who I am!”

The girls, in spite of their dazed condition which they claimed, threw
themselves into the boys’ celebration heartily and raved as girls are
supposed to do over the location and plans. Nor did they forget to be
sincere in their thanks for the Wizards’ part in the great surprise.
“It was perfectly grand!” cried Jean, with a sandwich in one hand and a
chicken wing in the other.