Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 18
AN INITIATION AND WHAT FOLLOWED
"Are we all ready?"
"Then forward—and make as little noise as possible until we are out of hearing of the school."
The Gee Eyes had assembled at the boathouse, under the leadership of Buster Beggs and Ben Basswood. Three of the number had gone ahead, taking with them the six new students who were to be initiated.
The members of the society had with them their robes and other paraphernalia, consisting of box-like headgear, stuffed clubs, wooden swords, squirt guns, and other articles too numerous to mention. They hurried off into the woods, and there donned the robes and headgear, and lit their lanterns, for the night promised to be dark.
"I hope nobody has found us out," ventured Roger. "We don't want to get caught at this." He had received an inkling of what was coming.
"Oh, I guess we are safe enough," answered Dave. "Murphy said he would let us in."
"Say, talking about being let in puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "A man stayed out later nights than his wife liked. One night he didn't come home until very late, and he stood on the sidewalk, afraid to let himself in. Along came a friend and asked him what he was doing. 'Please ring the bell and see if my wife is home,' said the man. So the friend rang the bell, and the next instant the door opened, and he got a broom over his head. 'Is she in?' asked the man on the sidewalk. 'Sure she is,' answered his friend. 'Go right in and you'll get a warm welcome!'" And at this story there was a general snicker.
A few minutes' walk brought the members of the Gee Eyes to a clearing in the woods. Here several lanterns had been hung up, casting a weird light of red, blue, and green. Those to be initiated were present, and surrounding them in a big circle, the members of the society commenced to chant:
See the victims, see!
Victim, bend your knee!
Sinky panky! flabboola!
Fall upon the ground!
Sinky panky! flabboola!
Sing without a sound!"
And then came a wild dancing around the victims, with a brandishing of clubs and swords.
"Hi! don't stab me!" roared one, as a sword was thrust suddenly in the direction of his stomach.
"Shut up!" murmured the victim next to him. "They won't hurt you."
"The Right Honorable Lord of the Reservoir will warm up the victims' backbones!" sang out Buster, in a hoarse bass voice. And then Shadow Hamilton, in his disguise, crept behind the nearest victim, and sent a stream of ice-water from a squirt-gun down the fellow's neck.
"Wow! wow!" yelled the student, trying to break away from the pair who held him. "Crimps! but that's cold!"
"'Tis for thy good we do this to thee!" said Shadow, solemnly, and then the next victim was treated to a similar dose. He submitted quietly, and so did the next fellow, but the fourth broke away, and started off in the direction of the school.
"Hi, come back here!" yelled several. "Don't you want to become a member?"
"I—I guess I've changed my mind!" stammered the youth. "I—er—I can't stand cold baths, nohow. If you—Hello, what's this!" And of a sudden he pitched over some dark object, and went headlong.
"Ouch!" came in another voice. "Ouch! What do you mean by kicking me in the ribs?" And a groan of pain followed.
"Who is behind those bushes?" asked Dave.
"Must be a spy!" returned Phil.
"A spy! A spy! Capture him!"
"Don't let him get back to the school!"
On the instant there was great excitement, and fully a dozen members of the Gee Eyes rushed forward and caught hold of the escaping victim, and the fellow over whom he had stumbled. Both were dragged forward, and the light of a lantern was turned on the unknown.
"Why, it's Nat Poole!"
"He was spying on us!"
"Maybe he was going to report us!"
"You le—let go of me!" stammered Nat. He put his hand to his side. "That fellow half killed me!" And he gave another groan.
"What were you doing in the bushes?" demanded Ben, sternly.
"Yes, you were."
"I'll wager a button he was going to report us!" exclaimed another student.
"It ain't so!" whined Nat. "Ain't I got a right to be here? I'm a member."
"No, you are not—you've been cast out!" answered a deep bass voice.
"If he wants to be one of us, he's got to be initiated all over again!" said Phil, in a disguised voice. "What say, boys, shall we do it?"
"Yes! yes! Put him with the others!"
"Sure thing! Nat, you are just in time!"
"We'll give you an initiation you'll never forget, a regular three-ply, dyed in the wool, warranted storm-proof initiation," added Ben, in tragic tones.
"I don't want to be initiated again!" howled the money-lender's son. "I've had enough of this society. You let me go!"
"Not to-night!" was the firm answer, and much against his will Nat was forced to go along with the crowd; and thus his plan to find out what they were going to do, and then carry the news to Doctor Clay, was nipped in the bud.
"We were lucky to catch Nat," whispered Dave to Roger, as the whole crowd proceeded through the woods, led by Buster and Ben. "I am certain he was spying on us for no good purpose."
"Exactly, Dave, and we want to watch him right along," returned the senator's son. "First thing you know, he'll be giving our football signals and tricks away to Rockville and the other schools we are going to play."
Nat had been forced to join the other victims, and the seven were marched a distance of a quarter of a mile. The crowd came out on the bank of the river, at a spot where several ice-houses had recently been erected.
"Now, we'll give you the famous slide for life!" cried Buster, and pointed to the upper portion of one of the ice-houses, where a big wooden slide led downward into the Leming River.
"I can't stand cold water!" cried the victim who had previously tried to run away.
"'Twill do you a power of good!" answered Sam, in a deep voice.
"Say, you ain't going to dump me into the river from that thing!" roared Nat Poole. "I won't stand it!"
"Then sit down to it, Nat!" came a voice from the rear.
Of a sudden the seven victims were blindfolded. Several protested weakly, but the others kept silent, for they knew it would do no good to attempt to hold back; indeed, it might make matters worse. Yet nobody in that crowd wanted a ducking, for the water was cold, and they were quite a distance from the school.
Some narrow stairs led to the upper portion of the ice-houses, and blindfolded as they were, the victims were forced to mount these and were then taken to a room in the back of one of the buildings.
"Now for Number One!" sang out Buster, and one of the victims was rushed forward to a slide.
"Hope you can swim, Carson!" said one of the hazers.
"The water isn't over ten feet deep," said another.
"Swim hard and then you won't take cold," added a third.
"If you find yourself really drowning, yell for help," put in a fourth.
"I—er—I don't think this is quite fair——" commenced poor Carson, and then he was tripped flat on his back and sent downward with a plunge. "Oh!" he screamed, and then continued to go down, with great rapidity, for the slide had been looked over by the boys, and made as smooth as possible. He shut his mouth tightly, expecting every instant to strike the chilling waters, but of a sudden his feet struck a heap of sawdust, and into this he slid up to his knees. Then eager hands seized him, and the bandage was torn from his eyes. In the semi-darkness he saw that he had not come down the slide over the water, but down another, which ended in the sawdust pit of the ice-house. He looked decidedly sheepish.
"Have a fine swim, Carson?" asked one of his tormentors.
"What a sell!" muttered the victim. "But anyway, it's better than the river!" he added, with much satisfaction.
One after another the victims were sent down the wooden slide. Some came down silently, like martyrs, while others yelled in alarm. Nat Poole was the last to be brought forward. He was well blindfolded.
"Be careful, Nat!" cried one student, gravely. "Don't hit your head when you go down."
"And don't scratch yourself on any of the nails," added another.
"As soon as you hit the water somebody will haul you in with a boathook," came from a third.
"I—I don't want to slide into the water, I tell you!" screamed the money-lender's son. "I'll catch my death of cold!"
"You run all the way back to school and get into bed and you'll be all right!" said a fourth hazer.
"I—I can't swim very well! You let me go!" And now Nat was fairly whining.
"Can't do it, Nat! Here is where you get a first-class, A No. 1, bath!" was the cry, and then the victim was sent flat on his back on the wooden slide. He let up a shriek of agony, and another shriek as he commenced to slide down. Then he lost his nerve completely, and uttered yell after yell, only ending when he struck the sawdust with such force that he turned a complete somersault and got some sawdust in his mouth and nose.
"My, but he certainly knows how to scream!" remarked Dave, as he and the others rushed below, to join the crowd. "I hope he doesn't rouse the neighborhood."
When the cloth was removed from Nat's eyes, and he had a chance to see where he had landed, he was the maddest lad present. All the other victims were laughing at him, and the club members almost doubled up in their mirth.
"Think you're smart, don't you?" he snarled. "But you just wait!"
"Want more of the initiation?" demanded Buster.
"No, I don't! You let me go! I'm going back to the school! "
"So are we, Nat, and you'll go with us," answered Shadow. "Don't let him get away from us!" he whispered to his friends.
"Well, this winds up the initiation," said Buster, throwing off his headgear, a movement that was followed by the others. "You fellows are now full-fledged members of the Gee Eyes."
"And I'm glad it is over," answered one of the victims. "Say, but that was a dandy shoot the chutes!" he added, half in admiration.
"It is not quite as firm as it might be," said Dave. "It needs more bracing up on the sides. The carpenters aren't done, I suppose."
"I thought it was mighty shaky myself," put in Phil. "Why, once I thought it was going down with us."
"Oh, it's as sound as a dollar!" cried Shadow. "Of course, with such a crowd——"
Shadow did not finish, for from above the boys in the sawdust pit, there came a sudden ominous cracking. In the semi-darkness of the night they saw a brace snap in twain. Another brace quickly followed, and then the wooden slide commenced to sway from side to side.
"It's coming down!" yelled Roger, hoarsely. "Get out of here quick—unless you want to be killed!"