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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.

"What are we to do?" questioned Sadie Fillmore. "We can't stay here forever."

"Here comes that rowboat!" cried Vera, a moment later.

"Oh, let us signal to them!" exclaimed Mary, and standing up she waved her handkerchief, and then her big sailor hat.

"We don't want those fellows here!" growled Link Merwell. "They can go about their business. We'll get the boat off the sandbar somehow."

"We do want them," answered Vera, and joined her friend in signaling, and Sadie Fillmore did the same.

It was not long before the other boat came within hailing distance. Seeing that the motor boat was stuck on a sandbar, the rowers took care not to ground their craft.

"Help us, won't you, please!" cried Vera.

"Yes, yes, take us off!" added Mary.

"We don't want to stay on this motor boat any longer!" exclaimed Sadie.

"I guess we can take the girls off," said Phil. "But what about Poole and Merwell?"

"We might come back for them," answered Ben. "We can't leave them here very well."

With care the rowboat was brought to the side of the motor boat and the girls were assisted from one craft to the other.

"Can't you take us?" asked Poole.

"Not now," said Roger. "We can come back later."

The rowboat was rather crowded, but this could not be altered. The boys pulled away from the motor boat, and then asked the girls where they wished to be landed.

"We were going to Perry's Point, across the river," explained Vera. "But those boys kept us out so long I think we'd better go home." And then she and the others told how they had been walking toward the place where an old man kept a ferry, when they had been hailed by Merwell, who had offered to take them across.

"But they didn't take us across at all!" cried Mary. "They took us for a ride instead, although we told them we didn't want to go."

"Can that be true?" asked Phil, indignantly.

"It certainly is," said Vera. "Oh, I think they were just too mean for anything!"

"It serves them right that their motor boat ran on the sandbar. I hope they never get it oft," added Sadie Fillmore.

"We'll have to look into this," said Dave. "It was contemptible to keep you out on the river against your will, and they ought to be made to suffer for it."

"And they shall suffer—just you wait and see," said Roger, firmly.