One Young Fool in Dorset
exactly what they were
as soon as I felt them and squeezed them with no trouble at
    “Now it’s time to walk the plank! When you get to
the end, you must jump. Be careful, it’s a long way down.”
    Now I really was scared. Where were we? Were
we near Pug’s Hole? If so, that was a really steep drop in the
woods. I knew there was no water as I didn’t think we were anywhere
near the Bug Pond, but how far would I have to jump?
    “Walk, Nameless!”
    What if I broke a leg and had to stay in the
Sanatorium, like Broomhead in Upper Four, who broke her leg in gym
and couldn’t climb the stairs to her dorm?
    “Walk-the-plank, walk-the-plank, walk-the-plank,”
chanted the spectators.
    I felt for the beginning of the plank with the toe
of my sandal. Thankfully, the plank was wide. I shuffled slowly
along it, arms outstretched to keep balance, desperately wishing I
could rip the blindfold away from my eyes and see where I was
    “Walk! Walk! Walk!” chanted the spectators, more
excited now.
    I shuffled further.
    “You are at the end now, stop!”
    I stopped.
    “Now jump!”
    I knew I had to, but I really didn’t want to jump.
My legs were trembling.
    “Jump! Jump! Jump!” shouted the spectators.
    I took a deep breath, bent my knees and sprang high
into the air off the end of the board.
    There was no drop at all. The plank was flat on the
ground, not suspended above any drop. Apart from the shock, and
stumbling a little as I landed, I was totally unhurt and would not
need carting off to the Sanatorium. The relief was
    I must have looked very silly, and I could hear
laughter, quickly muffled because they were about to play the same
trick on Snort.
    “And finally, you must plunge your finger into
Nelson’s eye!”
    After walking the plank, this shouldn’t be a
problem. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.
    My hand was grasped, and my extended forefinger was
pushed into something wet and squelchy. It was extremely
unpleasant, but not painful.
    Then the scarf over my eyes was pulled off. It was
    As I blinked in the sudden light, I discovered what
I had pushed my finger into: a mouldy orange. I wiped off the mess
on my finger on the back of my shorts. There were plenty of girls
in the clearing, including some girls from my dorm. I opened my
mouth to speak, but they all put their fingers to their lips, and
pointed. It was Snort’s turn to walk the plank.
    Poor Snort. I knew how she was feeling, but she was
braver than me and didn’t hesitate. She jumped off the end of the
plank as soon as she was told and was just as surprised as me to
discover that the ground was level. Nelson’s mouldy eye gave her no
trouble either.
    “You have both passed the ceremony,” said the girl
whose voice was by now familiar to us. “I hereby name you Dusty and
    The spectators applauded. The relief was enormous.
Nelson’s Eye was no longer a black cloud that hung over us. We had
done it, passed it, and survived.
    “I’m so glad that’s over,” I said to Snort when we
were alone again.
    “Me too! Most of it was just silly, but I hated
walking the plank.”
    I nodded, recalling my fear.
    I suppose we were lucky really. Initiation
ceremonies are common in English public schools, particularly boys’
schools, and Nelson’s Eye was very mild compared with some.
    My brother told me that every new boy in some
schools had to crawl under all the beds in the dorm, getting
thwacked with slippers as they emerged from under each bed. Some
schools pushed new boys in laundry baskets down flights of steps.
Ritual cold baths were administered at others, or ‘crucifixions’
where a broom pole was pushed through the sleeves of a blazer like
a scarecrow, while the unlucky new boy was wearing it.
    “I thought we might end up in the San with broken
legs,” I said.
    The Sanatorium (or San) was housed in a separate
building and was Sister MacDonald’s empire. It looked rather like a
dorm, except it was sterile and devoid

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