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- Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 10/37 -



The girls from Lakeview Hall were not likely to forget their experience on the car for many a long day. And they were honestly appreciative of the fact that Rhoda Hammond, the girl from Rose Ranch, had saved their lives.

But they did not really know how to show Rhoda that, in spite of her bad start at the Hall, the attitude of at least the party of girls who had been with her in the electric car, had changed toward her.

Nan put her arms about the Western girl and kissed her warmly. She could do that, for from the start she had been kind to the girl from Rose Ranch. But the others hesitated. Rhoda was not a shallow girl. She did not turn easily from one attitude to another.

The unconscious motorman had been picked up and laid on a seat in the car, and the conductor had run them into Freeling. John was there put in a hospital ambulance. That was all they could do for him.

The doctors said he had been walking around suffering from pneumonia for several days. The girls sent him flowers and some other luxuries and comforts when he was better.

But what could they do for Rhoda?

"I don't think we had better try to do anything _for_ her," Nan finally said, after suggestions had been discussed ranging from presenting Rhoda with a gold medal to falling down on their knees and begging her forgiveness.

"We have nothing really to ask her pardon for. It actually was her own stupidity that made her begin so unfortunately among us. She, perhaps, can't see that. Or, if she does, she is too obstinate to admit it."

"Why, Nan!" cried warm-hearted Bess Harley, who, once moved in the right direction, could not do too much for the object of her approval. "Why, Nan! you speak as though you did not like Rhoda, after all. You are the only one who stood up for her all those weeks."

"When did I stand up for her?" demanded Nan. "I would not treat her unkindly. But I have thought all the time she was in the wrong. And there is no use going to Rhoda and telling her we were wrong and that we are sorry. That would not only be a falsehood, but it would do no lasting good."

"Hear! Hear!" cried Amelia. "Minerva Sherwood speaks."

"I guess Nan has got the 'wise' of it," agreed Laura. "No matter how well we may think of Rhoda, she would be equally offended if we all suddenly changed toward her in a way to make her conspicuous. We must begin treating her naturally."

"That's all right," agreed Amelia. "But we cannot overlook the incident of that car ride."

"I should say not!" exclaimed Bess Harley.

"Everybody is talking about it," said Grace.

"Dr. Beulah spoke of it this morning at chapel," Lillie said, "although she did not mention Rhoda's name."

"But everybody knew who she meant," Bess declared.

"For that she can thank Miss March," laughed Laura. "She will never get over talking about Rhoda's bravery."

"And poor Rhoda looked scared in chapel," said Nan. "She thought she was going to be publicly commended for what she had done," and Nan finished with laughter.

"Well," cried Bess, "what shall we do, girls?"

"No," Nan said once more with gravity, "that isn't it. It's what will she do? That is the question. Let Rhoda meet us half way, at least. Otherwise we'll all be stiff and formal and never get any nearer to that wild Western girl than before. I'll tell you!"

"Go ahead. That's what we are waiting for. Tell us," begged Laura.

They gathered closer about the girl from Tillbury and Nan lowered her voice while she explained her idea. So the girls of Corridor Four--at least, all those who had been aboard the electric car when Rhoda's self-possession had saved them from disaster--were merely courteous to the girl from Rose Ranch, or smiled at her when they met, and kept deftly away from the exciting adventure in their conversation while Rhoda was near.

Apparently the afternoon tea was given in Room Seven in honor of Beautiful Beulah, Nan's famous doll.

"But I'm too big to play dolls," Rhoda Hammond objected when Nan urged her attendance on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

"Pshaw!" laughed Nan, "you're not too big to pass tea and cocoa and sweet crackers to the primes who will come to worship at the shrine of my Beautiful Beulah. That's what I want you for--to help. Bess and I can't do it all."

It was hard to refuse Nan Sherwood anything.

"Laura declares one has to be real mad at you to get out of anything you want us to do!" complained Bess one day, when yielding to Nan's pressure and doing something she would have preferred not to do.

These "doll-teas" in Number Seven, Corridor Four, had become very popular toward the latter end of the previous term at Lakeview Hall. Every girl in the school--even the seniors and juniors--knew of Beautiful Beulah, and the little girls in the primary department flocked to Nan Sherwood's parties whenever they had the chance, bringing their own dolls.

On this particular occasion, however, the young girls came early, were "primed" (as Laura said) with goodies and cocoa, and sent away; the older girls, dropping in one by one, were huddled on beds, chairs, the couch, and even sat Turk-fashion on the floor, gradually filling the room. The crowd included all those girls who had gone to Adminster two Saturdays previous.

Nan had kept Rhoda so busy helping behind the tea table that the Western girl did not realize at once how the character of the party had changed. And shrewd Nan had got Rhoda to talking, too.

A query or two about Rose Ranch, something about the Navaho blanket Nan and her chum had bought for their couch--before she knew it the girl from the West was eagerly describing her home, and telling more in ten minutes about her life before she had come to Lakeview Hall than she had related to anybody in all the weeks she had been here.

"Rose Ranch must be a great place," sighed Bess longingly.

"A beautiful country?" suggested Amelia.

"Magnificent views all around us," Rhoda agreed softly. "A range of hills to the southeast that we call the Blue Buttes. Many mesas on their tops, you know, on which the ancient Indian peoples used to till their gardens. There was a city of Cliff Dwellers not fifty miles from our house."

"Sounds awf'ly interesting," declared Laura.

"And winding through the Blue Buttes is the old Spanish Trail. Up from Mexico by that trail came the Spanish Conquistadors, they say," Rhoda went on, quite excited herself now, in telling of her home and its surroundings.

"And I s'pose there's an electric car line running through those hills now--on the Spanish Trail, I mean?" laughed Laura.

"Well, no. We're not quite as far advanced as that," the Western girl said, good-naturedly enough. "But we don't have any Indian scares nowadays. The Indians used to ride through that gap in the Blue Buttes years ago. Now it's only Mexican bandits."

"Never!" gasped Bess, sitting up suddenly.

"You don't mean it?" from Grace and Lillie in unison.

"You're just spoofing us, aren't you, Rhoda?" drawled Amelia Boggs.

"No, no. We do have Mexican bandits. There is Lobarto. He is no myth."

"Fancy!" exclaimed one of the other girls. "A live bandit!"

"Very much so," said Rhoda. "He has made us a lot of trouble, this Lobarto; although it has been six years since he came into our neighborhood last. He drove off a band of father's horses at that time. But our boys got after him so quick and chased him so hard that they say he took less back to Mexico with him than be brought over the border."

"What does that mean?" asked Bess quickly.

"Why, he brought with him a lot of plunder, they say," Rhoda explained, "and he could not carry it back."

"Then your folks got the plunder?" inquired Nan.

"Not exactly! Lobarto hid it. But our boys got back the horses. And they killed several of Lobarto's gang."

"Mercy! Just listen to her!" cried Laura excitedly. "Why! I was just making believe about your coming from the wild and woolly West; and you really do!"

"Not very woolly around Rose Ranch," said Rhoda grimly. "Father does not approve of sheep. The nesters make us trouble enough, without having sheepmen."

Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 10/37

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