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   Chapter 1 DOWN PENDRAGON HILL

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 11937

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Ta-ra! ta-ra! ta-ra-ra-ra! ta-rat!

Professor Krenner took the silver bugle from his lips while the strain echoed flatly from the opposite, wooded hill. That hill was the Isle of Hope, a small island of a single eminence lying half a mile off the mainland, and not far north of Freeling.

The shore of Lake Huron was sheathed in ice. It was almost Christmas time. Winter had for some weeks held this part of Michigan in an iron grip. The girls of Lakeview Hall were tasting all the joys of winter sports.

The cove at the boathouse (this was the building that some of the Lakeview Hall girls had once believed haunted) was now a smooth, well-scraped skating pond. Between the foot of the hill, on the brow of which the professor stood, and the Isle of Hope, the strait was likewise solidly frozen. The bobsled course was down the hill and across the icy track to the shore of the island.

Again the professor of mathematics-and architectural drawing-put the key-bugle to his lips and sent the blast echoing over the white waste:

Ta-ra! ta-ra! ta-ra-ra-ra! ta-rat!

The road from Lakeview Hall was winding, and only a short stretch of it could be seen from the brow of Pendragon Hill. But the roof and chimneys of the great castle-like Hall were visible above the tree-tops.

Now voices were audible-laughing, sweet, clear, girls' voices, ringing like a chime of silver bells, as the owners came along the well-beaten path, and suddenly appeared around an arbor-vitae clump.

"Here they are!" announced the professor, whose red and white toboggan-cap looked very jaunty, indeed. He told of the girls' arrival to a boy who was toiling up the edge of the packed and icy slide. Walter Mason had been to the bottom of the hill to make sure that no obstacle had fallen upon the track since the previous day.

"Walter! Hello, Walter!" was the chorused shout of the leading group of girls, as the boy reached the elevation where the professor stood.

One of the girls ran to meet him, her cheeks aglow, her lips smiling, and her brown eyes dancing. She looked so much like the boy that there could be no doubt of their relationship.

"Hello, Grace!" Walter called to his sister, in response.

But his gaze went past the chubby figure of his shy sister to another girl who, with her chum, was in the lead of the four tugging at the rope of the gaily painted bobsled. This particular girl's bright and animated countenance smiled back at Walter cordially, and she waved a mittened hand.

"Hi, Walter!" she called.

"Hi, Nan!" was his reply.

The others he welcomed with a genial hail. Bess Harley, who toiled along beside her chum, said with a flashing smile and an imp-light of naughtiness in either black eye:

"You and Walter Mason are just as thick as leaves on a mulberry tree, Nan Sherwood! I saw you whispering together the other day when Walter came with his cutter to take Grace for a ride. Is he going to take you for a spin behind that jolly black horse of his?"

"No, honey," replied Nan, placidly. "And I wouldn't go without you, you know very well."

"Oh! wouldn't you, Nan? Not even with Walter?"

"Certainly not!" cried Nan Sherwood, big-eyed at the suggestion.

"Only because Dr. Beulah wouldn't hear of such an escapade, I guess," said the wicked Bess, laughing.

"Now! just for that," Nan declared, pretending to be angry, "I won't tell you-yet-what we were talking about."

"You and Walter?"

"Walter and I-yes."

"Secrets from your chum, Nan! You're always having something on the side that you don't tell me," pouted Bess.

"Nonsense! Don't you know Christmas is coming and everybody has secrets this time of year?"

"Hurry up, girls!" commanded the red-haired girl who was helping pull on the rope directly behind the chums. "I'm walking on your heels. It will be night before we get on the slide."

"We're in the lead," Bess flared back. "Don't be afraid, Laura."

"That may be," said Laura Polk, "but I don't want Linda Riggs and her crowd right on top of us. They're so mean. They came near running into us the other day."

"But the professor called 'em down for it," said the fourth girl dragging the bobsled, who was a big, good-natured looking girl with a mouthful of big white teeth and a rather vacuous expression of countenance when she was not speaking.

"He ought to send Linda Riggs and her friends down first," Nan Sherwood suggested.

"No, ma'am!" said Bess Harley, shrilly.

"We're here ahead of 'em all. We can go first, can't we, Professor

Krenner?"

"Certainly, my dear," responded the professor. "Look over the sled,

Walter, and see that it is all right."

The handsome sled was almost new and there could be nothing the matter with it, Walter was sure. Other parties of girls from the Hall, dragging bobsleds, were appearing now. They were all the bigger girls of the school, for the younger ones, or "primes," as they were designated, had their own particular hill to slide on, nearer the Hall.

Dr. Beulah Prescott, principal of Lakeview Hall, believed in out-of-door sports for her girls; but they were not allowed to indulge in coasting or sleighing or skating or any other sport, unattended. Professor Krenner had general oversight of the coasting on Pendragon Hill, because he lived in a queerly furnished cabin at the foot of it and on the shore of the lake.

He marshalled the sleds in line now and took out his watch. "Three minutes apart remember, young ladies," he said. "Are you going with your sister's sled, Walter?"

"This first time," said the boy, laughing. "Grace won't slide if I don't, although Nan knows how to steer just as well as I do."

"Of course she does," said Bess, with assurance. "We don't need a boy around," she added saucily.

"They're very handy animals to have at times," said the professor, drily. "Wait a bit, Miss Riggs!" he added sharply. "First come, first served, if you please. You are number three. Wait yo

ur turn."

"Well, aren't those girls ever going to start?" snapped the tall girl, richly dressed in furs, who had come up with a party of chums and a very handsome "bob."

Professor Krenner was quite used to Linda's over-bearing ways, and so were her fellow-pupils. They made the rich and purse-proud girl no more beloved by her mates. But she could always gather about her a few satellites-girls who felt proud to be counted the intimates of the daughter of a railroad president, and who enjoyed Linda Riggs' bounty.

Not that there were many girls at Lakeview Hall whose parents and guardians were not well off. The school was a very exclusive school. Its course of instruction prepared the girls for college, or gave them a "finish" for entrance upon their social duties, if they did not elect to attend a higher institution of learning.

On this occasion Professor Krenner paid no further attention to Linda Riggs. Walter Mason had already taken his place on his sister's sled at the steering wheel in front, with his boots on the footrests. His sister got on directly behind him and took hold of his belt. Behind her Nan, Bess, little, fair-haired Lillie Nevins, who was Grace's particular chum, and who had ridden over on the sled from the Hall, Amelia Boggs, the homely girl, and Laura Polk, the red-haired, sat in the order named. There were rope "hand-holds" for all; but Grace preferred to cling to her brother. The first trip down the hill was always a trial to timid Grace Mason.

"All ready?" queried Walter, firmly gripping the wheel.

"Let her go!" cried Laura, hilariously.

"And do give somebody else a chance!" exclaimed Linda.

Professor Krenner's watch was in his hand. "Go!" he shouted, and as the red-haired girl's heels struck into the hard snow to start the creaking runners, the old gentleman put the bugle to his lips again and blew another fanfare.

"We're off!" squealed Bess, as the bobsled slipped over the brow of the descent and started down the slippery slide with a rush.

Fifty feet below the brink of the hill a slight curve in the slide around a thick clump of evergreens hid the sled from the group at the top. They could hear only the delighted screams of the girls until, with a loud ring of metal on crystal, the runners clashed upon the ice and the bobsled darted into view again upon the frozen strait.

The first bobsled ran almost to the Isle of Hope before it stopped. By that time Professor Krenner had started the second one, and the impatient Linda was clamoring for what she called her "rights."

"We'll show 'em how to speed a bobsled, if you'll give us a chance," she complained. "That thing of the Mason's didn't get to the island. We'll show 'em!"

Nan Sherwood and her friends piled off the first sled upon the ice with great delight and much hilarity.

"I declare!" gasped Laura. "I left my breath at the top of the hill.

O-o-o! What a ride!"

"It's ju-just like swinging too high!" burst out flaxen-haired Lillie.

Nan and Bess had brought their skates slung over their shoulders by the straps. Before getting up off the sled the chums put these on and then were ready to draw the heavy sled back across the ice to the shore.

"Get aboard-all of you!" Bess cried. "All you lazy folks can have a ride!"

"And do hurry!" added Nan. "Here come some more bobs."

The second sled did not gain momentum enough to slide half-way across the strait between the mainland and the Isle of Hope. But now appeared the "Linda Riggs' crew," as Laura called them, and their shiny, new sled. Out of the enveloping grove which masked the side of Pendragon Hill it came, shooting over the last "thank-you-ma'am" and taking the ice with a ringing crash of steel on crystal.

"Got to hand it to 'em!" exclaimed Walter, with admiration. "That's some sled Linda's got."

"So's ours," Bess said stoutly. "See, they're not going to run farther than we did."

"I don't know about that," murmured Nan, honestly.

"Come on!" Bess cried. "Let's get back and try it again. I know those horrid things can't beat the Sky-rocket."

The other girls had already piled upon the bobsled. Walter started them with a push and called a "good-bye" after them. He was going to put on his own skates and skate up the strait to the Mason house. The family was staying here on the shores of Lake Huron much later than usual this year.

Nan Sherwood and Bess Harley had no trouble at all in dragging their mates across the ice upon the Sky-rocket. Linda's sled, the Gay Girl, did go farther than the first-named sled, and Bess was anxious to get to the top of the hill to try it over again.

"It will never do in this world to let them crow over us," Bess declared.

She and Nan slipped off their skates at the edge of the ice and all six laid hold of the long rope to pull the Sky-rocket up the hill.

A fourth bobsled rushed past them, the girls screaming and laughing; and then a fifth flew by.

"Mrs. Gleason said she would come over before supper time," Laura Polk said. Mrs. Gleason was the physical instructor at the Hall.

"Let's get her on our sled!" cried Bess.

"Let's!" chorused the others.

But no teacher save Professor Krenner was on the brow of the hill when the Sky-rocket was hauled into position again. This time Nan steered, with firmly braced feet, her mittened hands on the wheel-rim, and her bright eyes staring straight down the course.

"Are you ready?" cried the professor, almost as eager as the girls themselves. Then he blew the warning blast to tell all below on the hillside that the Sky-rocket was coming.

Ta-ra! ta-ra! ta-ra-ra-ra! Ta-rat!

With a rush the sled was off. It disappeared around the evergreen clump. The hum of its runners was dying away when suddenly there sounded a chorus of screams, evidently from the Sky-rocket crew. Following this, a crash and a turmoil of cries, expressing both anger and fright, rang out upon the lower hillside.

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