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- Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 5/37 -
Dog Mesa. Isn't that so, Miss Rhoda?"
"You seem to know," replied the Western girl bruskly.
Laura suddenly whispered to the hooded Amelia. The latter cleared her throat portentously and said:
"Sawney, it is evident that you must be taught your place. Meekness becomes you lambkins when you first come to Lakeview Hall. Slave, prepare the bandage."
"What's that?" demanded Rhoda. "Do you know, I don't like this foolishness much."
"The fiery trial all right for yours!" exclaimed Laura, who had caught up a towel and was folding it dexterously. "Turn around!"
"I won't!" declared Rhoda flatly.
"Mutiny!" exclaimed Amelia. "Seize the captive and bandage her eyes at once," and she pounded on the floor with the broom handle.
Nan was one of those who grabbed the Western girl. But she did so to whisper swiftly in Rhoda's ear:
"Don't fight against it. It's only fun."
"Fun!" repeated Rhoda in disgust.
But she gave over struggling. Laura blindfolded her quickly and securely. Of course she might have torn the bandage off, for her hands were free. But she waited more calmly now for what might come next.
WALKING THE PLANK
Nan Sherwood knew very well that there was no intention of really injuring the new girl; therefore she made no objection to what was done. Indeed, she helped haze Rhoda Hammond, but more for the sake of seeing that the Western girl was not taken advantage of in any way than for the fun of the prank.
Nan did not know what Amelia and Laura had planned to do to the new girl, but knowing the older girls as well as she did, she was sure that nothing very bad was intended.
Somebody found an old striped silk parasol with some of the panels split, and this was opened and given to Rhoda to carry. The line of march was then taken up, with the victim directly behind the Mistress of Ceremonies and Laura and Nan shutting off all chance of Rhoda's escape.
The latter's cheeks were very red and her teeth gripped her lower lip tightly. Bess mentioned, giggling, that Rhoda looked already as though she were going through the fiery trial!
Nan realized it would have gone much better for the Western girl if she had taken it smiling. She feared that Rhoda's attitude would make the hazing more severe and more prolonged. She wished she knew what was in the minds of Laura and Amelia Boggs regarding the new girl.
The procession marched through Corridor Four to the rear stairway. Amelia stalked ahead, carrying the broom, her "wand of office." The stairway led threateningly near to Mrs. Cupp's room.
"Don't dare breathe even, while we are going down," hissed Laura.
"Silence!" reiterated Amelia.
They descended carefully--all but the prisoner. But when she made too much noise Laura poked her.
"Here!" the red-haired girl muttered, "make believe you are stealing upon a band of Indians to scalp 'em--the poor things! You don't walk like a prairie rose. You stamp along more like a charging buffalo."
"Goodness!" sighed Lillie Nevins, in the rear, "how much our Laura knows about the West, doesn't she?"
At the titter which followed this remark, their leader hissed for silence again. The procession was now winding down the stairway to the rear of Mrs. Cupp's office. They were bound for the basement, it seemed.
For a moment Nan Sherwood wondered if the older girls intended to reach the subterranean passage which connected the trunk room with the boathouse at the foot of the cliff. Then she remembered that the trunk room would be locked at this hour and that Mrs. Cupp had the key.
But the gymnasium was down here, too. The cellars under the school were enormous. Castle-like, the great, rambling building had been constructed by a man with more imagination than money. The latter ran out before his castle on the cliff was completed. After years of emptiness, Dr. Beulah Prescott had obtained it and made it into what it now was--a school for girls.
The great gymnasium was not locked. Laura ran quickly when they entered the dusky place, and punched the light buttons.
"What do you suppose Mrs. Gleason will say?" whispered Grace Mason. Mrs. Gleason was the athletic instructor.
"She won't say a thing if she doesn't know," declared Bess promptly.
Some one closed the door, and Nan saw then that there were at least twenty girls in the room. Some had joined the procession from other corridors. Now they all began to gabble at once, and Amelia pounded frantically for order.
Nan saw that the bandage was sufficiently tight across Rhoda's eyes. Then she led her into the middle of the great room. Amelia was beckoning.
There had been repairs going on in the gymnasium during the holidays, and a good deal of the paraphernalia had been disarranged. It was evident, too, that the workmen were not entirely through. A long plank, used by the men as a scaffolding, stretched from one set of horizontal bars to another on the platform at one end of the room.
Laura called the other girls and in whispers directed them to gather all the mattresses and pile them on the platform under the somewhat insecure plank. Amelia, her eyes sparkling through the holes in the pillow-slip, held Nan and the prisoner back.
"Sawney," the tall girl said sternly, "as you have filed objections to being tried by fire according to the ancient and honorable custom of Lakeview lambkins, you shall be treated as a robber--No! A pirate. You shall be made to walk the plank."
"Well," said Rhoda, rather scornfully. She did not see anything funny in all this.
"It will be a pretty deep well you will plop into," threatened Amelia. "Ready, slaves?"
"Your slaves are slavishly ready," called Laura from the platform. "Let the sawney climb the ship's taffrail and be plunged into the sea."
"We ought to tie her hands behind her," said one girl, as they marched down the room.
"No," said Nan.
"That is right," said Amelia. "We must give her a chance to swim when she strikes the water."
"Oh, fiddlesticks!" murmured Rhoda.
But Nan saw Laura run and fill a big dipper with water from the spigot and give it to one of the other girls, who climbed quickly to the platform. Then Laura came to seize the victim's other arm. She and Nan marched Rhoda, willy-nilly, down the room and up the steps to the platform.
Rhoda stumbled on each step and held her head down. Nan, therefore, judged that Rhoda could see a little from under the bandage. But she did not call Laura's attention to this fact.
"Mount her quickly, slaves!" called Amelia from below. "Force her to walk the plank instantly!"
There had been a stepladder set up against the first horizontal bar set, right at the end of the plank. Nan saw that the mattresses were all in place and that a fall from the plank would only be about three feet. Such a fall was not likely to be serious, and to girls used to athletic drill it seemed a mere nothing. And yet--
"Come on!" commanded Laura, half lifting Rhoda up the stepladder.
"Careful, Laura!" whispered Nan. "If she should fall--"
"Then she will escape drowning," said the red-haired girl, coolly and aloud.
"Fudge!" muttered the victim, who seemed in a very much disgusted mood.
"Beseemeth the candidate is not sufficiently impressed by her situation," hissed Laura.
She and Nan had scrambled up the steps with the blindfolded Rhoda. There was a cross-plank which gave the three uncertain footing.
"Oh, look out!" gasped Nan, wavering herself upon the edge of the plank.
"Hey! We don't want to have to raise the 'man overboard' cry just yet," grumbled Laura. "Easy there, Nancy!"
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