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   Chapter 6 No.6

The Dozen from Lakerim By Rupert Hughes Characters: 18537

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


A detachment was now sent to scurry through the dormitory and see if it could find any other Lakerimmers. This squad finally came down the stairs, the biggest one of the Crows carrying little History under his arm. History was waving his arms and legs about as if he were a tarantula, but the big black Crow held him tight and kept one hand over the boy's mouth so that he could not scream.

Then Tug began to struggle furiously again, and to resist their efforts to drag him out of the room. He could easily have raised a cry that would have brought a professor to his rescue and scattered his persecutors like sparrows; but his boyish idea of honor put that rescue out of his reach, and he fought like a dumb man, with only such occasional grunts as his struggle tore from him.

He might have been fighting them yet, for all I know, had not History twisted his mouth from under the hand of his captor and threatened-he had not breath enough left to call for help:

"If-you-don't let me go-I'll-tell on you."

The very thought of this smallness horrified Tug so much that he stopped struggling, and turned his head to implore History not to disgrace Lakerim by being a tattler. The Crows saw their chance, and while Tug's attention was occupied one of them threw a loosely woven sack over his head and drew it down about his neck. Then they started once more on the march, History scratching and kicking in all directions and doing very little harm, while Tug, with his hands tied behind him and his head first in a noose, used his only weapons, his shoulders, with the fury of a Spanish bull. And before they got him through the door he had nearly disabled three of his assailants, making one of them bite his tongue in a manner most uncomfortable. And the room looked as if a young cyclone had been testing its muscles there!

The Crows hustled the Lakerimmers out without any unnecessary tenderness, forgetting to close the door after them. Out of the hall and across the board walk, on to the soft, frosty grass where the sound of their scuffling feet would not betray them, they jostled their way. Tug soon decided that the best thing for him to do was to reserve his strength; so he ceased to resist, and followed meekly where they led. They whirled him round on his heel several times to confuse him as to the direction they took, then they hurried him through the dark woods of a neglected corner of the campus. History simply refused to go on his own feet, and they had to carry him most of the way, and found only partial revenge in pinching his spidery legs and bumping his head into occasional trees.

The two boys knew when they left the campus by the fact that they were bundled and boosted over a stone wall and across a road.

History, as he stumbled along at. Tug's side, at length came to himself enough to be reminded of the way the ancient Romans used to treat such captives as were brought back in triumph by their generals. But Tug did not care to hear about the troubles of the Gauls-he had troubles of his own.

Once they paused and heard a mysterious whispering among the Crows, who left them standing alone and withdrew a little distance. History was afraid to move in the dark, for fear that he might step out of the frying-pan into the fire; but Tug, always ready to take even the most desperate chance, thought, he would make a bolt for it. He put one foot forward as a starter, but found no ground in front of him. He felt about cautiously with his toe, and discovered that he was standing at the brink of a ledge. How deep the ravine in front of him was, he could only imagine, and in spite of his courage he shivered at the thought of what he might have done had he followed his first impulse and made a dash. There are pleasanter things on a dark night than standing with eyes blindfolded and hands bound on the edge of an unknown embankment. As he waited, the weakening effect of the struggle and the mysterious terrors of the darkness told on his nerves, and he shivered a bit in spite of his clenched teeth. Then he overheard the voices of the Crows, and one of them was saying:

"Aw, go on, shove him over."

Another protested: "But it might break his neck, and it's sure to fracture a bone or two."

"Well, what of it? He nearly broke my jaw."

Then Tug heard more excited whispering and what sounded like a struggle, and suddenly he heard some one rushing toward him; he felt a sharp blow and a shove from behind, and was launched over the brink of the ledge. I'll not pretend that he wasn't about as badly scared as time would allow.

But there was barely space for one lightning stroke of wild regret that his glad athletic days were over and he was to be at least a cripple, if he lived at all, when the ground rose up and smote him much quicker even than he had expected. As he sprawled awkwardly and realized that he had hardly been even bruised, he felt a sense of rage at himself for having been taken in by the old hazing joke, and a greater rage at the men who had brought on him what was to him the greatest disgrace of all-a feeling of fear. He had just time to make up his mind to take this joke out of the hides of some of his tormentors, if it took him all winter, when he heard above him the sound of a short, sharp scuffle with History, who was pleading for dear life, and who came flying over the ledge with a shrill scream of terror, and plumped on the ground half an inch from Tug's head. It took History only half a second to realize that he was not dead yet, and he was so glad to be alive again-as he thought of it-that he began to sniffle from pure joy.

The Crows were not long in leaping over the ledge and getting Tug and History to their feet. Then they took up the march again, staggering under their laughter and howling with barbarous glee.

After half a mile more of hard travel, the prisoners were brought through a dense woods into a clearing, where their party was greeted by the voices of others. The sack over Tug's head was unbound and snatched away, and he looked about him to see a dozen more black Crows, with two other hapless prisoners, seated like an Indian war-council about a blazing lire, and, like an Indian war-council, pondering tortures for their unlucky captives.

In the fire were two or three iron pokers glowing red-hot. The sight of this gave the final blow to any hope that might have remained of History's conducting himself with dignity. When he and Tug were led in, there was such an hilarious celebration over the two Lakerim captives as the Indian powwow indulged in on seeing a scouting party bring in Daniel Boone a prisoner.

As Tug was the most important spoil of war, they took counsel, and decided that he should be given the position of honor-and tortured last. Then they went, enthusiastically to work making life miserable for the two captives brought in previously.

The first was compelled to climb a tree, which he did with some little difficulty, seeing that, while half of them pretended to boost him, the other half amused themselves by grabbing his legs and pulling him back three inches for every one inch he climbed (like the frog and the well in the mathematical problem). He finally gained a point above their reach, however, and seated himself in the branches, looking about as happy as a lone wayfarer treed by a pack of wolves. Then, they commanded him to bark at the moon, and threatened him with all sorts of penalties if he disobeyed. So he yelped and gnarled and bow-wowed till there was nothing left of his voice but a sickly wheeze.

Then they told him that the first course was over, and invited him to return to earth and rest up for the second. So he came sliddering down the rough bark with the speed of greased lightning.

The second captive was a great fat boy who had been a promising candidate for center rush on the football team until Sawed-Off appeared on the scene. This behemoth was compelled to seat himself on a small inverted saucer and row for dear life with a pair of toothpicks. The Crows howled with glee over the ludicrous antics of the fellow, and set him such a pace that he was soon a perfect waterfall of perspiration, and was crying for mercy. At length he caught a crab and went heels over head backward on the ground, and they left him to recover his breath and his temper.

History had watched these proceedings with much amusement, but when he saw the hazers coming for him he lost sight of the fun of the situation immediately.

The head Crow now towered over the shivering little History, and said in his deepest chest-tones: "These Lakerim cattle are too fresh. They must be branded and salted a little."

Then he fastened a handkerchief over History's eyes, and growled: "Are those irons hot yet?"

"Red-hot, your Majesty," came the answer from one of the other ravens, and History heard the clanking of the pokers as they were drawn from the fire. He had seen before that they were red-hot, and now they were brandished before his very nose, so close that he could see the red glow through the cloth over his eyes and could feel the heat in the air close to his cheek.

"Where shall we brand the wretch, your Honor?" was the next question

History hea

rd.

The poor pygmy was too much frightened to move, and he almost fainted when he heard the first Crow answer gruffly: "Thrust the branding-iron right down the back of his neck, and give him a good long mark that shall last him the rest of his life."

Instantly History felt a bitter, stinging pain at the back of his neck, a pain that ran like fire down along his spine, and he gave a great shriek of terror and almost swooned away.

Tug's eyes were not blindfolded, and he had seen that, though the Crows had waved a red-hot poker before History's nose, they had quickly substituted a very cold rod to thrust down his back. The effect on the nerves of the blindfolded boy, however, was the same as if it had been red-hot, and he had dropped to earth like a flash.

Tug, though he knew it would heighten his own tortures, could not avoid expressing his opinion of such treatment of the sensitive History. He did not know whether he was more disgusted and enraged at the actual pain the Crows had given their captives or at the ridiculous plights they had put them in, but he did know that he regarded the whole proceeding as a terrible outrage, a disgrace to the Academy; and ever after he used all his influence against the barbarous idea of hazing.

But now he commanded as though he were master of the situation: "Throw some of that water on the boy's face and bring him to," and while they hastened to follow out his suggestion he poured out the rage in his soul:

"Shame on you, you big cowards, for torturing that poor little kid! You're a nice pack of heroes, you are! Only twenty to one! But I'll pay you back for this some day, and don't you forget it! And if you'll untie my hands I'll take you one at a time now. I guess I could just about do up two of you at a time, you big bullies, you!"

And now one of the larger Crows rushed up to Tug, and drew off to strike him in the face. But Tug only stared back into the fellow's eyes with a fiercer glare in his own, and cried:

"Hit me! My hands are tied now! It's a good chance for you, and you'll never get another, for I'll remember the cut of that jaw and the mole on your cheek in spite of your mask, and you'll wish you had never been born before I get through with you!"

Tug's rash bravado infuriated the Crows until they were ready for any violence, but the head Crow interposed and pushed aside the one who still threatened Tug. He said laughingly:

"Let him alone, boys; we want him in prime condition for the grand final torture ceremonies. Let's finish up the others."

Then they laughed and went back to the first two wretches, and made life miserable for them to the end of their short wits. They were afraid to try any more experiments on History, and left him lying by the fire, slowly recovering his nerves.

All the while Tug had remained so very quiet that the Crows detailed to watch him had slightly relaxed their vigilance. He had been silently working at the cords with which his hands were tied behind his back, and by much straining and turning and torment of flesh he had at length worked his right hand almost out of the rope.

Soon he saw that the Crows were about to begin on him. He thought the whole performance an outrage on the dignity of an American citizen, and he gave the cords one last fierce jerk that wrung his right hand loose, though it left not a little of the skin on the cords; and the first Crow to lay a hand on his shoulder thought he must have touched a live wire, for Tug's hand came flashing from behind his back, and struck home on the fellow's nose.

Then Tug warmed up to the scrimmage, and his right and left arms flew about like Don Quixote's windmill for a few minutes, until two of the two dozen Crows lighted on his back and pinioned his arms down and bore him gradually to his knees.

Just as the rest were closing in to crush Tug,-into mincemeat, perhaps,-History, who had been lying neglected on the ground near the fire, rose to the occasion for once. It seemed as if he had, as it were, sat down suddenly upon the spur of the moment. He rolled over swiftly, caught up the two pokers which had been restored to the fire after they had been used to frighten him, and, before he could be prevented, thrust the handle of one of them into Tug's grasp, and rose to his feet, brandishing the other like a sword.

Tug lost no time in adapting himself to the new weapon. He simply waved it gently about and described a bright circle in the air over his head. And his enemies fell off his back and scattered like grasshoppers.

Tug now got quickly to his feet, and he and History shook hands with their left hands very majestically. Then they faced about and stood back to back, asking the Crows why they had lost interest so suddenly, and cordially inviting them to return and finish the game.

They stood thus, monarchs of all they surveyed, for a few moments. But dismay replaced their joy as they heard the words of the first Crow:

"They can't get back to their rooms before their pokers grow cold, and it is only a matter of a few minutes until they chill, anyway, so all that we have to do is to wait here a little while, and then go back and finish up our work-and perhaps add a little extra on account of this last piece of rambunctiousness."

Tug saw that they were prisoners indeed, but intended to hold the fort until the last possible moment. He told History to put his poker back in the fire and to heat it up again, while he stood guard with his own.

To this stratagem the first Crow responded with another,-he trumped Tug's ace, as it were,-for though he saw that the fire was going out and would not heat the pokers much longer, he decided not to wait for this, but set his men to gathering stones and sticks to pelt the two luckless Lakerimmers with.

And now Tug saw that the chances of escape were indeed small. He felt that he could make a dash for liberty and outrun any one in the crowd, or outfight any one who might overtake him; but he would sooner have died than leave History, who could neither run well nor fight well, to the mercies of the merciless gang that surrounded them.

"Let's give the Lakerim yell together, History," he said; "perhaps the fellows have missed us and are out looking for us, and will come to our rescue."

So he and History filled their lungs and hurled forth into the air the old Lakerim yell, or as much of it as two could manage:

{ray!

{ri!

{ro!

"L`¨?y-krim! L`¨?y-krim! L`¨?y-krim! Hoo-{row!

{roo!

{rah!"

The Crows listened in amazement to the war-whoop of the two Lakerimmers. Then the first Crow, who had Irish blood in his veins, smiled and said:

"Oho! I see what they are up to; they're calling for help. Well, now, we'll just drown out their yell with a little noise of our own."

And so, when Tug and History had regained breath enough to begin their club cry again, the whole two dozen of the Crows broke forth into a horrible hullabaloo of shrieks and howls that drowned out Tug's and History's voices completely, but raised far more noise than they could ever have hoped to make.

After a few moments of thus caterwauling night hideous, like a pack of coyotes, the Crows began to close in on the Lakerim stronghold, and stones and sticks flew around the two in a shower that kept them busy dodging.

"We've got to make a break for it, Hist'ry," said Tug, under his breath. "Now, you hang on to me and I'll hang on to you, and don't mind how your lungs ache or whether you have any breath or not, but just leg it for home."

He had locked his arm through History's, and made a leap toward the circle of Crows just as a heavy stone lighted on the spot where they had made their stand so long.

Before the Crows knew what was up, Tug and History were upon them and had cut a path through the ring by merely brandishing their incandescent pokers, and had disappeared into the dark of the woods.

There was dire confusion among the Crows, and some of them ran every which way and lost the crowd entirely as History and Tug vanished into the thick night.

The glowing pokers, however, that were their only weapons of defense, were also their chiefest danger, and a pack of about a dozen Crows soon discovered that they could follow the runaways by the gleam of the rods. Tug realized this, too, very shortly, and he and History threw the pokers away.

Tug and History, however, had come pretty well to the edge of the wood, and were just rushing down a little glade that would lead them into the open, when the first Crow yelled for some of his men to take a short cut and head them off.

The Lakerimmers, then, their breath all spent and their hearts burning with the flight, which Tug would not let History give up, saw themselves headed off and escape no longer possible. Tug knew that History would be useless in a scrimmage, so, in a low tone, he bade him drop under a deep bush they were just passing. History was too exhausted to object even to being left alone, and managed to sink into the friendly cover of the bush without being observed. And Tug went right into a mob of them, crying with a fine defiance the old yell of the Athletic Club:

"L`¨?y-krim! L`¨?y-krim! L`¨?y-krim! Hoo-ray!"

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