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- Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 6/37 -


Nan whispered in Rhoda's ear: "Walk straight ahead. It isn't hard. I'll be ready to catch you."

"Out on the plank, sawney!" commanded Amelia from below.

Laura pushed Rhoda ahead. The candidate for initiation, even if she could see a little from under the bandage, had at best a very uncertain idea of where she was, or where she was going. Besides, with one's eyes practically blinded, it is very difficult indeed to walk a chalk line, even on the floor. And this plank that was far from steady was only about a foot in width.

"Oh!" ejaculated Rhoda, one foot before the other and her arms waving for a balance. The parasol did not help much.

"Oh! oh! oh!" was the prolonged wail from the crowd below.

"You--think--you're--so--smart!" Again the Western girl teetered back and forth. Laura gave her another slight push. Rhoda took one more step, and let the parasol fall.

"Good!" encouraged Nan.

"Treason!" croaked Laura, observing Nan's encouragement of the candidate.

"Have a care, sawney," declared Amelia Boggs sternly. "A false step and you are lost! The ravening sea is below you. Feel the spray dashing in your face!"

Quick as a flash the girl with the dipper filled her palm with water and threw it upward. It spattered into Rhoda's face and she jerked back her head.

The motion destroyed the balance she had gained. She uttered a stifled ejaculation and wavered again. Laura stretched out a hand and wickedly nudged the victim.

"Oh, don't!" yelled Nan, and she leaped down upon the mattresses.

Rhoda completely lost her equilibrium. She uttered another scream and stepped out into space.

"Man overboard!" shouted Laura.

And as Rhoda fell the girl with the dipper flung its contents over the flying figure of the new girl.

CHAPTER V

RHODA IS UNPOPULAR

The blindfolded Rhoda came down so awkwardly that Nan feared she would be hurt. The girl from Tillbury screamed a warning--which was useless.

But in that exciting moment Nan noted something that afterward gave her a sidelight upon Rhoda Hammond's character. As the Western girl felt herself going she snatched off the blindfolding towel.

Self-possession! Rhoda owned that attribute, largely developed. She was cool, if angry.

When she landed on the padded platform, she fell on her knees, and the fall must have jarred her. But she was up in a flash, and the girl with the dipper, Minnie Wolff, found herself in the muscular grasp of Rhoda's arms.

"There, now, I've had enough of this foolishness!" snapped the Western girl, limping toward the platform steps. "I've wrenched my knee, and I should hope you'd be satisfied. I want nothing more to do with your baby plays! I came to Lakeview Hall to study and learn something--"

"Oh, you are going to learn something all right," drawled Laura, interrupting Rhoda's angry speech. "But I can see it is going to take you some time, Miss Rhoda Hammond. You are going to have a nice time here!"

Rhoda pushed through the group of girls with blazing face. Her eyes were hard and dry. She had evidently hurt her knee quite badly, for she could not walk without limping. Nan ran after her.

"Oh, Rhoda, don't take it so," she begged in a whisper. "It will make it so much harder for you."

"I don't care!"

"But you want to be friends with us."

"With those girls?" repeated Rhoda, in scorn. "Not much!"

"Oh, yes, you do. Every one of them is nice."

"They act so."

"They are!" reiterated Nan. "And you made Minnie cry."

"What did she want to throw that water on me for?"

"But it didn't hurt you," Nan pointed out. "You are dressed for it!"

"Yes," snapped Rhoda, looking down at the jumper and overalls. "I look like a silly in these things."

"Well, you don't need to act like a silly," urged Nan, keeping pace with her, as Rhoda left the gymnasium. "You are making it awfully hard for yourself. The girls won't forgive you."

"Forgive me? Well, I like that!" scoffed Rhoda.

"Oh, yes. It was all in fun. We all have to go through some such performance--when we are greenhorns."

"Not for me!" exclaimed the Western girl with emphasis.

Nan was silent for a moment, guiding the new girl through the unfamiliar and only half-lighted passages to the back stairway. Then Nan asked:

"Does your knee hurt?"

"Of course it does."

"I have some lotion in my room. It is good for a sprain, or anything like that. I'll get it for you and you can rub it in well when you go to bed."

"If those girls come around to bother me again--"

"I'm afraid they won't," said Nan, sorrowfully.

"You're _afraid_ they won't?"

"Yes. They may let you very much alone. You won't have much fun here."

"Humph! I can flock by myself," said Rhoda, quite cheerfully.

"But you can have so much better times if you are friends with the other girls."

"I don't know about that. I don't like any of them--as far as I've gone. Except you. Out where I come from--at Rose Ranch--there are plenty of Mexican girls and Indian girls who are much more ladylike than this crowd. Why! these girls are savages."

"Oh, no, Rhoda! Not quite that," laughed Nan. "You don't understand. And I am afraid they won't understand you."

"Who wants 'em to?" responded Rhoda Hammond gruffly.

Nan Sherwood took the liniment into Rhoda's room, and when she returned, bringing back the overall suit to be returned to Henry, she found her chum, Bess Harley, in their room, slowly preparing for bed.

"Well! isn't that the greatest girl you ever saw?" exclaimed Bess. "She will have a nice time here--not! And I should think you'd not have anything to do with her, Nan. The other girls won't like it. We're just going to ignore her. A girl who can't take a joke!"

"I shan't have much to do with her until she comes to her senses," Nan admitted. "But I am sorry for her, just the same."

"You'll waste your 'sorry' on that one," laughed Bess.

"Perhaps. But don't you realize, honey, that we came near being just as foolish as Rhoda Hammond when we came here last fall?"

"Oh, nonsense!" ejaculated Bess; but she blushed.

"Think," said Nan, with twinkling eyes. "Don't you remember that shoe-box lunch we brought with us and that the girls made so much sport of? Didn't you get vexed?"

"Oh! Well! Yes, a little," admitted Bess. "But, Nan! I never acted as foolishly as this Rhoda Hammond. Now, did I?"

"No, you did not, my dear," agreed her chum.

But she might honestly have claimed credit for this being a fact. It had been Nan's better sense and her strong influence over her chum that had kept Bess Harley from acting quite as unwisely as Rhoda Hammond was now acting.

"I expect," was all Nan said, however, "that this poor Rhoda is going to have a very unhappy time of it here, unless she changes her attitude."

"Well, she deserves to. She spoiled our fun and she hurt Minnie badly. I suppose she's had no sort of bringing-up, coming right from that wild country."


Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 6/37

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