I was very glad to hear this, and trotted along by them down the lane to the road. The lane was a very cool and pleasant place. There were tall trees growing on each side, and under them, among the grass, pretty wild flowers were peeping out to look at us as we went by.
Mrs. Wood and Miss Laura talked all the way about the Band of Mercy. Miss Laura was much interested, and said that she would like to start one in Fairport.
“It is a very simple thing,” said Mrs. Wood. “All you have to do is to write the pledge at the top of a piece of paper: ’I will try to be kind to all harmless living creatures, and try to protect them from cruel usage,’ and get thirty people to sign it. That makes a band.
“I have formed two or three bands by keeping slips of paper ready, and getting people that come to visit me to sign them. I call them ‘Corresponding Bands,’ for they are too far apart to meet. I send the members ‘Band of Mercy’ papers, and I get such nice letters from them, telling me of kind things they do for animals.
“A Band of Mercy in a place is a splendid thing. There’s the greatest difference in Riverdale since this one was started. A few years ago, when a man beat or raced his horse, and any one interfered, he said: ‘This horse is mine; I’ll do what I like with him.’ Most people thought he was right, but now they’re all for the poor horse and there isn’t a man anywhere around who would dare to abuse any animal.
“It’s all the children. They’re doing a grand work, and I say it’s a good thing for them. Since we’ve studied this subject, it’s enough to frighten one to read what is sent us about our American boys and girls. Do you know, Laura, that with all our brag about our schools and colleges, that really are wonderful, we’re turning out more criminals than any other civilized country in the world, except Spain and Italy? The cause of it is said to be lack of proper training for the youth of our land. Immigration has something to do with it, too. We’re thinking too much about educating the mind, and forgetting about the heart and soul. So I say now, while we’ve got all our future population in our schools, saints and sinners, good people and bad people, let us try to slip in something between the geography, and history, and grammar that will go a little deeper, and touch them so much, that when they are grown up and go out in the world, they will carry with them lessons of love and good-will to men.
“A little child is such a tender thing. You can bend it anyway you like. Speaking of this heart education of children, as set over against mind education, I see that many school-teachers say that there is nothing better than to give them lessons on kindness to animals. Children who are taught to love and protect dumb creatures will be kind to their fellow-men when they grow up.”
I was very much pleased with this talk between Mrs. Wood and Miss Laura, and kept close to them so that I would not miss a word.