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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 ballfield, 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 other. 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."