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- Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 4/37 -
"While we gab here," went on Amelia, "curfew time approaches."
Laura struck an attitude. "Listen, girls!" she cried. "'Curfew shall not ring to-night!'"
"Now, don't begin reciting old chestnuts like that," sniffed Bess.
"It is an announcement of revolt, not a recitation, I'd have you know," declared the red-haired girl.
"What do you mean, Laura?" Nan asked, suddenly seeing that Laura really had some meaning underneath her raillery.
"Hush, children!" crooned the red-haired girl. "What is our greatest trial--our most implacable enemy--in this fair Garden of Eves? Tell me!"
"Mrs. Cupp," sighed Nan.
"Nay, nay! She is but the slave of the lamp," responded Laura, still in flowery fashion. "The _bete noire_ of the girls of Lakeview Hall is the half-past nine o'clock curfew. And I vow it shall not ring to-night!"
"Why won't it?" asked Nan, finally grown suspicious.
"Because," hissed Laura, her eyes dancing, "I climbed up into the tower this forenoon and unhooked and hid the bell-clapper. They won't find it for one while, now you mark my word!"
"Oh, Laura!" gasped Nan; but then she, too, had to join in the peal of laughter that the other girls in Room Seven, Corridor Four, emitted.
"What a joke!" exclaimed Bess.
"It's one of those jokes best kept secret," advised Amelia Boggs, who, after all, possessed a fund of caution. "Mrs. Cupp will be desperately moved when she finds it out."
"At least," Nan agreed, "Laura is right. Curfew will not ring to-night. But Mrs. Cupp will find some other way of making it known that retiring hour has arrived. We'd best get to work if we are going to have a procession of the sawneys."
"Girls," suddenly asked Bess, "who ever started that lumberman's slang of 'sawney' for 'greenhorn' up in this hall of acquired good English?"
"Oh, come, Bess!" groaned Amelia, "the term hasn't really opened yet. Don't make us delve into the past for the roots of our language. It's us for the procession now!"
Nan Sherwood entered into the plan for the evening's hazing of newcomers for a special reason. She had liked the girl from the West, Rhoda Hammond, at first sight. Not for her beautiful clothing, but for something Nan had seen in her countenance.
The former purposed to take an active part in whatever was done to the newcomer because she believed she could influence the more thoughtless girls to the extent that nothing very harsh would be done to Rhoda.
"I'll stir up the animals," cried Bess, hopping off her bed, where she had been perching. "We want a big crowd to help worry that Hammond girl."
She was gone in a flash to get together the other girls of Corridor Four. Laura yawned:
"I wonder if we'll be able to worry that wild Western young person much, after all?" she said. "She looked to me like a cool sort of person."
"I don't know," said Amelia. "I think she's stuck up."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," cried Nan.
"She's dressed to kill, just the same. I'd like to take her for a good long tramp in that outfit she came in."
"Procrastination means this Riotous Rhoda has got too much money--like Linda Riggs," put in Laura.
"I wonder if that Rose Ranch she comes from is a nice place," said Nan. "Just think! A real cattle ranch!"
"Pooh!" said Amelia. "My uncle owns a dairy farm. What's the difference whether you have muley cows or long-horned Texas steers?"
Laura was still chuckling at this when Bess returned with several girls who crowded into the room behind her. There was a busy time for a few minutes as the girls dressed Amelia in an old pillow-slip with eye-holes burned in it, and placed in her hand the staff of a broom, over the brush-end of which was drawn another bag, on which, in charcoal, Grace Mason deftly drew a very wise looking owl in outline.
Thus arrayed, Amelia was to lead the procession and be Mistress of Ceremonies. They were about to start when Laura Polk was suddenly missed.
"Now, where has she gone?" demanded Bess. "She's just like a flea! You put your hand on her, and there she isn't!"
But Laura was back in a moment. She brought with her, and dangled before their wondering gaze, a suit of paint-stained overalls, jumper and all, that evidently by their size belonged to Henry, the boatkeeper and man of all work of Lakeview Hall.
"I hid 'em the other day," declared the red-haired girl. "You never know what may happen, or how such garments as these may come in use."
"But, for pity's sake, Laura!" gasped Nan, "what are they for?"
"Don't they make just the uniform needed for a cowgirl? What say? I bet she rides astride, and these old overalls will remind her of home, at Rustlers' Roost, and all that, you know."
The shrieks of laughter that answered this proposal threatened to bring some of the teachers and so spoil the fun altogether. Finally, however, Amelia Boggs got the crowd into line, and the parade marched out of Room Seven into the corridor.
Room Eight was almost directly opposite the one occupied by Nan and Bess; but Amelia led the procession the full length of the hall and returned again before rapping a summons on Rhoda Hammond's door.
"Oh, yes! In a minute," cried a small voice from inside.
But Amelia waited on no appeal of this character. She found on turning the knob that the door was unlocked. She flung it open and stalked in, the other girls trailing two by two behind her.
"Oh, dear me! what do you want?" gasped Rhoda.
She had removed and hung up in the clothes-closet the beautiful furs, dress, and hat. Her bag was open on the couch, but it seemed to contain no kimono, and the Western girl remained half hidden behind the portiere that hung before the closet.
"What do you want?" she repeated, gazing in wonder at the tall figure of the Mistress of Ceremonies.
"We are just in time," said Amelia behind her mask, and in a supposed-to-be-sepulchral voice. "The sawney is all prepared to don her costume. Hither, slave! and see that she dons the costume quickly, for we must haste."
"The slave hithers," said Laura jovially. "Here you are, Rambunctious Rhoda from Rawhide Springs. Put 'em on."
She held out the overalls and jumper to the surprised new girl, who hesitated to take them.
"_Hic jacet!_ The varlet refuses 'em!" hissed the red-haired girl.
"Goodness, Laura," whispered Nan. "That means 'here lies'--and nobody is telling stories."
"She's got her Latin and Shakesperean English most awfully mixed," giggled one of the other girls.
"And 'varlet' is the wrong gender, anyway," observed Bess.
"Silence!" commanded the Mistress of Ceremonies. "Silence in the ranks. Will she not don the costume?"
"Put 'em on!" commanded Laura again, shaking the painter's suit before the hesitating Western girl.
"She would better," said Amelia threateningly, "or I will call to your aid all these, my faithful followers, who have already been through the fiery trial."
"I don't want to go through any fiery trial," said Rhoda. "But if you insist, I'll put on that jacket and the pants."
"'Pants' is truly Western, isn't it, Laura?" asked Amelia Boggs. "Civilized folk say trousers."
"I see I have much to learn," said Rhoda, too meekly, perhaps.
She slipped quickly into the roomy overalls behind the curtain, and then came forth, putting on the jumper. Her bare arms and shoulders were brown and firm. Nan thought Rhoda's figure was as attractive as her face was pretty. She caught the new girl's glance and smiled encouragingly.
"Doesn't she make a darling boy!" whispered Bess Harley to her chum.
But the other girls--at least, some of them--meant to make the newcomer feel keenly her position as a "sawney."
"She wears 'em just as though she was at home in them," said Laura drawlingly. "I tell you she is a regular cowgirl at home on the Hot
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