Dave Porter and his Classmates/Chapter 13
THE GEE EYES' INITIATION
"Well, you're a sight!"
"I don't look any more stylish than yourself, Roger."
"Stylish is good, Dave. I guess both of us look like circus clowns."
"Whoop la!" shouted Buster Beggs. "Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the renowned Oak Hall Company of Left-Over Clowns and Monkeys—the most unique aggregation of monstrosities on the face of the globe. This one has the reputation of——"
"Hush, not so loud, Buster!" cried Dave, "or you'll have old Haskers down on us, and that will spoil the fun."
"Speaking of looking like clowns puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow, who was still struggling to get into his club outfit. "One time a country fellow who wasn't a bit good-looking wanted to join a circus as a clown. He went to see the manager. 'Can I have a job as a clown?' he asked. 'Well, I don't know,' answered the manager, slowly, as he looked him over. 'Who showed you how to make up your face? It's pretty well done.'" And the usual short laugh went up.
The Gee Eyes in the past had worn simple robes of red with black hoods over their heads. Now, by a special vote, they had purchased robes that were striped—red, white, and yellow. For headgear each member had a box-like contrivance, cubical in shape, with holes in the front for the eyes and an orange-like lantern on top, with a candle in it. This box rested on the shoulders of the wearer, thus concealing his identity completely.
In the past, Phil Lawrence had been president of the organization, but now that office was filled by Sam Day, under the title of Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck. Ben Basswood was secretary, and was called the Lord of the Penwiper; Buster Beggs was treasurer, known as the Guardian of the Dimes, and Luke Watson was sergeant-at-arms under the title of Captain Doorkeep.
The organization met whenever and wherever it was convenient. This was done for two reasons: first, because the members did not wish their enemies to know what they were doing, or otherwise information might be imparted to the teachers; and, second, they never met unless they were going to initiate a new member or were going to have some sort of a feast.
"Where are the intended victims?" asked Dave, after he had adjusted his robe and his headgear to his satisfaction, and possessed himself of a long stuffed club.
"They were told to wait in the old granary until called for," answered Messmer.
"Do they seem to be timid about joining?" asked Ben.
"Tom Atwood is a little timid,—he heard how little Frank Bond was almost scared to death by Gus Plum's crowd one term."
"By the way, where is Gus?" asked Henshaw.
"He said he wanted to study," answered Dave. 11 1 asked him to come, but he wouldn't."
"My, but didn't Gus give us a funny story the time we initiated him!" cried one of the students.
"Yes, and do you remember how Link Merwell and Nat Poole placed those big firecrackers under our fire and nearly blew us all to pieces," added another.
"Never mind—we got square," said Buster. "I guess they haven't forgotten yet the drubbing we gave them."
It was late at night, and the boys had had not a little difficulty in stealing away from the school unobserved. With all in readiness, the three boys who were awaiting to be initiated were sent for, and they presently appeared, escorted by four of the club members, each carrying a bright and very blunt sword. As they came into the old boathouse, lit up by various fantastic lanterns representing skulls, dragons, and the like, the Gee Eyes set up a low chant:
"Hail the victims! Let them come!
Let them enter, one by one!
Let them bow the humble knee!
Let them now forsake all glee!
Death! Blood! Tomb!"
And then arose a weird groaning, calculated to make any lad feel uneasy. The three victims were forced to their knees and made to touch three chalk-marks on the floor with their noses. Then one of the members of the club came forward with a big tin wash-basin and sprinkled them with what looked to be water but was really ammonia. This caused some coughing and some tears commenced to flow. But the victims were "game" and said nothing.
"Lock two of them in yonder dungeon cell," commanded the Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck. "They shall be led to their fate later." And the Soden brothers, twins named Joe and Henry, were led to a big closet of the old boathouse and thrust inside.
Then Tom Atwood was taken outside, and a long march commenced behind the school grounds and leading to a secluded spot among some bushes. Here Atwood was suddenly blindfolded and his hands tied behind him.
"Now to Jackson's Gully with him!"—Page 125.
"Now to Jackson's Gully with him," cried several, and then the party proceeded a little further into the bushes.
"Look out, don't slip into the gully," whispered one member, but loud enough for Tom Atwood to hear.
"Oh, I'll take care!" whispered another. "Why, the gully is a hundred feet deep around here."
Then Tom Atwood was led up and over some rocks and halted a short distance beyond.
"Say, that looks mighty dangerous to me," whispered Roger.
"Oh, he'll get over if he's got nerve," answered Dave.
"Base slave, list thou to me!" cried the president of the Gee Eyes. "We have brought thee to the edge of a gully some hundred feet deep. If thou wouldst become a member of this notorious—I mean illustrious—organization thou must cross the gully on the bridge we have provided. Dost thou accept the condition?"
"I—I don't know," faltered Tom Atwood. "I—I can't see a thing."
"Nor wilt thou until thy task is accomplished. The gully must be crossed, otherwise thou canst not be of us."
"How big is the bridge?"
"One board wide."
"Any—er—handrail?" went on the victim.
"Nary a handrail," piped up a small voice from the rear. "What do you want for your money, anyway? "
"Say, that puts me in mind of a story——" came from another, but he stopped short as a fellow-member hit him with a stuffed club.
"I—I don't know about this——" began Tom Atwood. "I—oh, say, let up!" he cried, as he received several blows from stuffed clubs. "I—oh, my back!"
"Wilt try the bridge?" demanded the Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck.
"Yes, yes, but can't I—I crawl if I want to?"
"Thou canst, after thou hast taken seven steps."
"All right, here goes then."
Tom Atwood was led forward to the end of a long plank.
"Be careful," he was cautioned. "There, put your foot there and the other one right there. Now you are all right."
"And must I really—er—stand up and take seven steps?"
"Yes, exactly seven, or woe betide thee!" came the answering cry.
With great caution the blindfolded victim took a step and then another. He was trembling visibly, which caused the club members to shake with silent laughter. He counted the steps and when he had taken just seven he fell on his hands and knees, clutching the sides of the plank tightly.
"Ho—how long is—is it? " he asked, his teeth commencing to chatter. "I—I ain't used to climbing in such places. It—it makes me dizzy!"
"Go on! go on!"
"The plank is only fifty-four feet long," said one boy.
"Oh, my! fifty-four feet; I'll go down—I know I will!"
Slowly, and clutching the plank with a deathlike grip, Tom Atwood moved forward a distance of eighteen feet. Then the plank came to an end. He put out one hand after the other, but felt only the empty air.
"I—I don't feel the rest o—of th—the bridge!" he chattered.
"It is gone!" cried one boy, in a disguised voice. "Turn around and come back."
"But be careful how you turn, or the board may wabble and let you drop," added another.
More scared than ever, Tom Atwood turned around very gingerly. Once he thought the board was going over, and he set up a yell of fright. Then slowly and painfully he came back over the plank until he reached the solid ground once more.
"Hurrah!" cried the Gee Eyes. "Bravely done, Tom!"
"Now you are one of us!"
"He didn't mind that deep gully at all!"
"Yes, but I did mind it," answered the victim, as they were taking the cover from his eyes. "I wouldn't do that again for a hundred dollars in cash!"
"It was certainly the bravest thing to do I ever heard of," was Dave's comment, and then he tore the bandage away. Immediately, by the light of the lanterns the boys had on their headpieces, Tom Atwood looked at the plank which had cost him so much worry and fright.
"Well, I never!" he gasped.
And then what a roar of laughter went up! And well it might, for the plank rested on nothing but two blocks of wood and was less than a foot from the solid ground! The location was nowhere near Jackson's Gully.
"Tom, you'll do it for a hundred dollars now, won't you?" questioned Roger, earnestly.
"Oh, what a sell!" answered the victim, sheepishly. "Say, please don't tell the other fellows of this," he pleaded. "I'll never hear the end of it!"
"The secrets of the Gee Eyes are never told outside," answered Phil. "But there is one more thing you must do," he added.
"Carry that plank back to the boathouse."
"And here is a suit for you," said Ben. "Put that on, and then you can participate in the initiation of the Soden brothers."
"Where are they?"
"Locked up in the closet at the old boathouse."
"What are you going to do with them?"
"You'll see when you get back."
With Tom Atwood and the plank between them, the members of the Gee Eyes took up the long march back to the old boathouse. To do this they had to cross a country road which was but little used. As they did this they heard an unusual sound from a clump of trees near by.
"There they are!" a voice called out. "I told you I had seen some ghosts."
"Sure enough, Billy, they must be ghosts," was the reply, in a deeper voice. "It's a good thing I brung my shotgun with me."
"Are you goin' to shoot at 'em?"
"That's what, Billy."
Hardly had the words been spoken when, to the consternation of the Gee Eyes, a shotgun was discharged, the load whistling through the trees over the lads' heads.
"Hi! hi! stop that!" yelled Buster Beggs. "We are not ghosts! We are——"
Bang! spoke up the shotgun a second time, and the load went clipping through the bushes on the left.
"Hand me your shotgun, Billy," said one of the voices. "I don't know if I hit 'em or not, but this'll fetch 'em!"
"Run!" cried Dave. "Run for your lives! That old farmer is so scared he doesn't know what he is doing!"
And then all the boys ran across the roadway and dove into the woods beyond. They heard another report, but the contents of the gun did not reach them.