Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter and His Classmates



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"We'll have to hurry some," said Dave. "I want some time to warm up, and so do the others."

"Maybe it will rain and the game will have to be called off," was Phil's comment, with an anxious look at the overcast sky.

"Oh, it's not going to rain just now," answered Henshaw.

They had just reached the top of a long hill and were preparing to go down the other side, when they heard a tooting behind them.

"Here comes an automobile!" cried Phil, looking back.

"I know that machine," answered Buster. "It belongs to some of the students at Rockville – two cousins, I think. They brought it down from Portland, Maine, where they come from."

"It is full of Rockville fellows," said Sam. "They want to pass us," he added, as the tooting sounded louder.

"It's a narrow road to pass on," grumbled Horsehair. "Whoa, there!" he cried to his team.

"Whoa, I say!"

For the horses had begun to prick up their ears and dance about at the sound of the automobile horn.

"Clear the road, for we are coming!" came the cry from behind, and then with a tooting of the horn, a puffing from the engine, and a wild yelling from the occupants, the big touring car shot past the carryall with less than three inches to spare, and plunged down the hill at a speed that soon carried it out of sight in a cloud of dust.

It was enough to scare anybody, and the hearts of some of the boys beat wildly for the moment.

"That's taking a fearful risk," was the comment of one lad. "If they don't look out, they'll break their necks."

There was little time to say more, for the students now realized that Horsehair was having his hands full with the new team. One horse was plunging with might and main to break away and the other was shying to the left. Then came a sudden snap, as a portion of the harness gave way, and the next moment the carryall was sweeping down the hill on the very heels of the team that was running away.

CHAPTER XXVI
A DEFEAT FOR OAK HALL

It was a time of great peril and all the students in the carryall realized it. With a portion of the harness broken, the driver could do little or nothing to control the team. They had the bits in their teeth and plunged down the hill and over the rocks in a manner that sent the turnout swinging first to one side and then the other.

"We'll go over!"

"We'll be smashed to pieces!"

"We'd better jump, if we want to save our lives!"

These and many other cries rang out. Dave and Ben were on the front seat with Horsehair, but all the others were inside, being thrown around like beans in a bag.

"Let them go!" sang out Dave. "Give them the middle of the road, – and put on the brake."

At first the driver was too scared to pay attention to Dave's words, and the youth had to lean over and pull the brake back. This all but locked the wheels and caused the carryall greatly to diminish its speed. But the horses kept dancing and plunging as madly as ever, and it looked as if at any instant they might bring the turnout to grief in one or the other of the water gullies lining the highway.

"If you fellows want to get off, drop out the back one at a time," sang out Dave, when he saw that the brake was telling on the speed of both team and carryall.

"You had better jump, too," answered one youth, as he prepared to do as advised.

"Not yet – I think the team will stop at the foot of the hill," returned Dave.

His coolness restored confidence to the others, and all remained in the carryall.

Horsehair had tight hold of the reins, and now began to talk soothingly to the horses – getting back some of his own wits. Then the bottom of the hill was reached; and after a few minutes of work the team was brought down to a walk and then halted. Without waiting for an invitation, the students leaped to the ground and the school driver did likewise.

"Say, that was surely a scare," was Jackson Lemond's comment. "I'd like to wring the neck o' the young rascal who is running that auto!"

"He certainly had no right to rush past us as he did," replied Phil. "But how about it, Horsehair; can you mend the harness? Remember, we want to get to Hilltop."

"I reckon I can mend it – I've got extry straps and buckles under the seat."

Horsehair set to work and Dave and Plum aided him, and in a very few minutes they were able to proceed on their way. The driver now kept the team well in hand, and the boys kept a keen lookout for more automobiles, but none passed them.

"I've a good mind to report those chaps to the constable," said Horsehair, as they neared Hilltop. "They ought to be locked up."

"You'll be laughed at for your pains," answered Shadow. "Let us wax Rockville at baseball – that will be revenge enough."

The grounds were comfortably filled at the ball-field, and by the time the game started nearly every seat was taken. In one corner of the grand stand was a group of girls and among them Mary Feversham and Vera Rockwell, and they had flags with the initials O. H. on them.

"They are going to root for us, bless 'em!" cried Phil, and he waved his hand at Mary and Vera, and Dave did likewise. Roger pretended not to see the girls, but hurried immediately to the dressing-room to prepare for the game.

It had brightened up a little and for a short while the sun came out. Promptly at three o'clock the game started with Oak Hall at the bat. They were retired in one, two, three order, much to the delight of the Rockville contingent.

"That's the way to do it!"

"Now then, fellows, show them how you can bat the ball!"

And then arose the Military Academy slogan:

 
"Rockville!
Rockville!
You'll get your fill
From Rockville!"
 

Dave was certainly in the pink of condition when he walked down to the pitcher's box. Yet, despite his best efforts, one of the Rockville players "found him" for a two-bagger and another for a single, and when the side went out it had two runs to its credit.

Then what a roar went up from the Military Academy boys!

"That's the way! Keep it up!"

"If you make two every inning, you'll have eighteen by the time you finish."

During the second, third, and fourth innings Oak Hall did its best to score, but though two players reached second and one third, it was not to be. In the meantime Rockville got four more runs, making six in all.

"Six to nothing! That's going some!"

"Here is where we show Oak Hall what we can do!"

Phil was very much worried and came to talk the matter over with Dave.

"Dave, can't you strike some more of 'em out?" he asked. So far the pitcher had struck out two men.

"I'm doing my best, Phil. They seem to be good hitters and no mistake. If you want to try somebody else in my place – "

"No, no, Dave! Only I'd like to keep down that score. Do your best."

In the next two innings Oak Hall managed to get two runs – one by a wild throw to second. This was a little encouraging, and the students rooted wildly. But in the seventh inning Roger made a wild throw to third and that gave the Rockvilles two more runs. At the end of the eighth the score stood, Rockville 10, Oak Hall 3.

"We ought to have another pitcher and another catcher," said some. "Porter and Morr are both off to-day."

"Phil, you can put somebody else in my place if you wish," said the senator's son, quickly.

"And you can put somebody in my place, too," added Dave.

"No, you stick and do the best you can," answered the manager of the nine.

"They can't do anything!" sneered Link Merwell, who stood close by.

"They can both play far better ball than you," retorted Phil. "If you were pitching or catching, the Rockvilles would have about fifty runs," and then he turned his back on the bully.

It had begun to rain a little, but both clubs decided to play the game out unless it came down too hard. Oak Hall went to the bat with vigor in the ninth and got two men on bases. But then came a foul fly, a short hit to first, and a pop fly, and there their chances ended. Then, to see what they could do, Rockville took the last half of the ninth and batted out four more runs, amid the wildest kind of yelling from the Military Academy cadets and their friends.

Final score, Rockville 14, Oak Hall 3.

The Oak Hall boys felt as gloomy as the sky above them and they had little or nothing to say. They could now realize how Rockville had felt, when defeated on the football field, the season before. None of the players gave attention to the rain, which was now coming down in torrents.

"Told you we'd lose," said Link Merwell, to some of the boys near him.

"Oh, you're a croaker!" cried Messmer. "We can't win every time."

"You should have had Purdy in the box," said another. Purdy was a new student and it was said he could pitch very well.

"Yes, and Barloe behind the bat," added another. Barloe had caught in some games the year before and done fairly well.

It must be confessed that both Dave and Roger were considerably disheartened by the result of the game, and each blamed himself for errors made. Gus Plum also bewailed the fact that he had missed a foul fly that came down just out of his reach.

It was raining so hard the boys had to wait in the dressing rooms and on the grand stand for the downpour to let up before starting for Oak Hall. Here the game was discussed in every particular, and each player came in for commingled praise and blame.

"Well, if you want my opinion I'll give it," said Dave, frankly. "I do not say that I didn't make any errors myself, for I did. But I think our nine needs team-work – we don't play well enough together."

"That is true," answered Plum. "I go in for constant practice between now and the time for the next game."

During the wait Phil slipped away from the other players and sought out Mary Feversham. The girl smiled sadly at his approach.

"I shouldn't have minded the rain at all if you had won," she said. "But to have you lose and have the rain also is dreadful!"

"Well, we still have a chance to win the series," answered the club captain, bravely. "I am sorry you are caught here. Perhaps I can get a covered carriage – "

"Thank you, but Vera has a gentleman friend here, and he is going to take us home in a coach."

"Oh!"

"He's a young man that used to think a lot of Vera," went on Mary, in a whisper. "I guess she thinks a lot of him, too – but don't let her know I told you."

Soon the young gentleman drove up in a coach and Phil was introduced. Then the young ladies got in, and off the turnout sped through the rain. Then Phil rejoined the others of the club; and a little later all were on their way to Oak Hall, in the carryall, and in covered carriages and wagons.

"Were Mary Feversham and Vera Rockwell here alone?" asked Roger, while on the way.

"I guess so," answered Phil.

"How were they going to get home?"

"A young gentleman, fellow named Greene, – personal friend of Vera's, – took them home in a coach."

"Greene?"

"Yes, George Greene. Looked like a nice fellow. Mary said he and Vera were quite thick."

Phil said this carelessly, but he looked sharply at the senator's son as he spoke.

"Why, I thought – " Roger broke off short. "Didn't you and Dave call on Vera and Mary one night last week?" he added, after a long pause.

"Why – er – I passed Mary's house and spoke to her at the gate for a few minutes," stammered Phil. "Dave was with me, but he didn't stop – said he wanted to post a letter to his sister."

"Didn't he go to Vera's house?"

"No. I don't think he has seen her since that ball game at Oakdale."

"Is that really true, Phil?"

"I believe it is, Roger. And now see here, old boy, what is this trouble between you and Dave? I'm your chum and I'm Dave's chum, too, and I think I have a right to know."

"Why don't you ask Dave?"

"He says he doesn't know – at least, he says the trouble all comes from you – no, I don't mean that either, I mean – Hang it, Roger, what do I mean?"

At this outburst the senator's son had to laugh, and Phil laughed also, and both boys felt better for it. There was a pause.

"I guess I've been – been – well, jealous, Phil," said Roger. "I – I thought Dave was sweet on little Jessie Wadsworth – "

"So he is."

"And then he got acquainted with Vera Rockwell, and – and – "

"And he became friendly with her, nothing more, Roger – just as you became friendly with Jessie. Didn't he have a right to do that? Why, I don't think – in fact, I am quite sure, – she doesn't care for him excepting in a general way. Why should she? She's young yet, and so is Dave, – and so are all of us. Now, I like Mary Feversham, and I guess she likes me, but I am not going to let that come between my friendship for you and Dave. Really, Roger, you are taking this too much to heart. I rather think, if you ought to be jealous, it should be of Mr. Greene, not of Dave."

"Maybe you're right, Phil," answered the senator's son, slowly and thoughtfully. "And if you are – well, I've been making a fool of myself, that's all."

CHAPTER XXVII
STUCK ON A SANDBAR

Roger seemed to feel much better after his talk with Phil, and that evening, when the baseball club held a meeting in the gymnasium, he spoke pleasantly to Dave. The young pitcher appreciated this, and when the meeting was over he and Roger walked to the school side by side, something they had not done in a long while.

"I – I guess I've been making a fool of myself, Dave," said the senator's son, frankly. "I thought – " He hesitated, not knowing how to go on.

"Don't say another word about it, Roger!" cried Dave.

"You know what it was about."

"I think I can guess. But what is the use of chewing it over? I am sure I never wanted to interfere with you or your – friends. If you like Vera – and I think she is certainly a nice girl – why don't you act more friendly when you meet? I think you treated her a little bit shabbily the last time – and maybe she thinks so, too."

"Oh, I was a fool, that's why. I suppose now, if I try to make up, she'll cut me dead."

"I don't think she is that kind, Roger. Anyway, if I were you, I'd try her."

"I don't suppose you know I got a note about you and her?" went on the senator's son.

"A note?"

"Yes, it was only a scrawl in pencil and I was so angry at the time I tore it up. It said you were making yourself friendly with her just to cut me out."

"Who sent the note?"

"I don't know. Wish I did."

"It was surely some enemy," said Dave; and there the talk had to come to an end.

Not much had been said at the meeting of the baseball club, but during the next few days many of the students of Oak Hall came out against Dave, Roger, and Gus Plum, saying they thought those three players had lost the game. This was not true, but the talk grew, and it made matters decidedly unpleasant for the trio of ball players.

"Phil, I think you had better try Purdy in the box at the next game," said Dave. "So many of the fellows seem to want him."

"And you can put Barloe behind the bat," added Roger. "I don't want to catch if somebody can do better."

"And I'll give up first base," said Plum.

"See here, if you are all going to resign I'll resign myself!" cried the manager of the nine. "This talk is all nonsense."

"But it is growing stronger," answered Dave. "And I must admit, Purdy is a good pitcher."

"Can he pitch as well as you?"

"I'd prefer to have others decide that question."

More talks like this followed, and when some of the other students got at Phil he began to waver.

"Well, regardless of friendships," said he at last, "I want to do the best I can for Oak Hall. I am willing to put Purdy in the box, Barloe behind the bat, and Hissoc on first, provided Dave, Roger, and Gus will go on the substitute bench."

"I reckon Porter won't agree to substitute," said one of the club members.

But in this surmise the player was mistaken. The young pitcher agreed to do anything the manager wished, and so did the senator's son and Plum. Thereupon Purdy, Barloe, and Hissoc were at once put into training for the next game.

One afternoon Dave, Phil, Roger, and Ben Basswood went for a row on the river. They took one of the racing boats, and, with each at an oar, they made rapid progress up the stream. They passed several of the islands, and then rounded a point and entered a cove which was thickly lined with bushes and trees.

"Nat Poole is out in his motor boat," said Roger. "He has Link Merwell with him."

"I think the best thing Nat can do is to drop Merwell," was Ben's comment. "Merwell is getting reckless. I've seen him in town half a dozen times, hanging around the poolroom, smoking."

"Yes, and he drinks," said Roger. "Sometimes I really think he ought to be reported to Doctor Clay."

"Yes, but who wants to do it?" asked Phil. "Nobody wants the reputation of a tale-bearer."

"He certainly ought to be expelled if he is going to lead others astray," was Dave's comment. "I suppose some of us ought to talk to Nat about it. But Nat is so conceited he thinks he knows it all, and it would be mighty hard to tell him anything."

"Hark! I hear a motor boat now!" cried Ben. "It must be behind those overhanging trees."

"Here it comes," said Roger. "I declare, it's Poole's boat and he and Merwell have several young ladies aboard!"

As the motor boat came closer the boys saw that the young ladies were Vera Rockwell, Mary Feversham, and a stranger.

"I didn't know those girls would go out with Poole and Merwell," was Phil's comment.

"Nor I," added Roger.

The motor boat had been headed almost directly for the rowboat, but as soon as Merwell recognized those in the smaller craft he turned to his crony and said something in a whisper, and then the motor boat was turned in another direction.

"Motor boat, ahoy!" cried Ben.

To this hail Poole and Merwell paid no attention. Poole was steering and the bully was at the engine, and the latter advanced the spark and turned on more gasoline, in order to increase the speed of the craft.

"Oh, it's Mr. Lawrence!" cried Mary Feversham.

"And Mr. Porter and Mr. Morr!" added Vera Rockwell.

"Please stop the boat, we want to speak to them," went on Mary, to Merwell.

"Can't stop just now," grumbled the bully, as he tried to make the engine run still faster.

"Why, the idea!" exclaimed the strange girl of the party. "I thought you could stop a motor boat any time."

"So you can," added Vera Rockwell. "I want you to stop," she went on, commandingly.

"Can't do it," answered Merwell, and then he winked at Poole, who had turned his head to listen to the talk.

"Well, I think you are real mean!" pouted Mary. "I shall never ask you to take me across the river again. You've kept us on the motor boat now nearly an hour!"

"If you don't land us where we want to go, and as soon as possible, I'll tell my brother," said Vera.

"Yes, and we'll tell those students in that rowboat, too," said Mary.

"You came for a ride of your own free will," said Merwell.

"We did not. We said we wanted to cross the river and you said you'd take us across."

"Well, that's what we intend to do," and Merwell grinned in a manner that disgusted all three of the fair passengers.

"If you don't land us at once, I shall cry for help," said Vera.

"And so will I," added the other girls.

"We'll land you – after we've had a ride," answered Merwell, and continued to crowd the engine as best he knew how.

"Don't run too fast – I don't know the channel here!" cried Poole, somewhat alarmed. Had he had his way, he would have landed the girls long before, but he did not dare to thwart Link Merwell's pleasure. The bully took a vast delight in teasing the girls and scaring them.

"Help! help!" cried Vera, suddenly. "Help!" And then the other girls joined in the call for assistance.

"You shut up!" exclaimed Merwell, sullenly. "We are not hurting you. If you don't shut up we'll land you on one of the islands and leave you there."

"Oh!" exclaimed the third girl, whose name was Sadie Fillmore, and then she nearly fainted from fright.

The motor boat was rounding a point of the cove when there came an unexpected scraping on the bottom. Then suddenly the craft slid up on a sandbar and careened to one side, almost tumbling some of the occupants into the water.

"Shut her off!" yelled Poole, and in alarm Link Merwell stopped the engine. The girls screamed and clung to each other in terror. A little water entered the boat and this added to their fright.

"Now, see what you did!" cried Nat Poole. "We are on a sandbar."

"It wasn't my fault – I wasn't steering," answered Link Merwell.

"I told you to run slow, but you kept piling on the speed."

"Are we go – going to – to sink?" faltered Mary.

"Sink? We can't sink. We are high and dry on a sandbar," grumbled Merwell.

"Oh, I am so thankful!"

"Well, I'm not."

"But we aren't dry – the water is all around us," protested Vera.

"There's not enough to float us."

"What are we going to do?" demanded Poole, looking at his crony with much concern showing in his face.

"Perhaps we can back her," suggested Merwell. "I'll reverse the engine and try."

This was done, but though the propeller churned the water into a foam and sent some sand flying into the air, the motor boat remained firmly on the bar.

"It's no use," sighed Nat. "Stop the engine, or you may break something." And then the power was turned off.



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