E-text prepared by Al Haines
PEE-WEE HARRIS ADRIFT
PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH
The Tom Slade Books The Roy Blakeley Books The Pee-Wee Harris Books
Illustrated by H. S. Barbour
[Frontispiece: Pee-wee rowed his customers to Alligator Island.]
Published with the approval of The Boy Scouts of America Grosset & Dunlap Publishers : : New York Made in the United States of America Copyright, 1922, by Grosset & Dunlap
I ALONE II SATURDAY MORNING III CASTLES IN THE AIR IV KEEKIE JOE V A QUESTION OF DUTY VI THE MISSIONARY VII APPLE BLOSSOM TIME VIII PEE-WEE EXPLORES THE ISLAND IX THE LOOKOUT SEES A SAIL X THE OTHERS ARRIVE XI PLANS XII THE DISCOVERER RETURNS XIII "STOP" XIV "GO" XV LIFE ON THE UNKNOWN SHORE XVI BEFORE THE PARTY XVII THE SCENE IS SET XVIII EVERY WHICH WAY XIX THE EARTHLY PARADISE XX GONE XXI FOILED XXII IN THE GLARE OF THE SEARCH-LIGHT XXIII THE DREAM OF KEEKIE JOE XXIV THE MISSIONARY LANDS ON FOREIGN SHORES XXV RETURN OF THE HERO XXVI SHORT AND TO THE POINT XXVII SETTLED AT LAST XXVIII IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE XXIX THE RACE XXX ABSENCE MAKES THE ISLAND QUIET XXXI A PROMISE XXXII VENGEANCE XXXIII KEEKIE JOE, SCOUT XXXIV THE STORY CLOSES AND SCHOOL OPENS
Pee-wee rowed his customers to Alligator Island.
Keekie Joe interview Pee-wee.
The boys hold the island in spite of old Trimmer's protest.
Pee-wee becomes a sandwich man.
PEE-WEE HARRIS ADRIFT
When Pee-wee Harris returned from Temple Camp in the fall, he found himself a scout without a patrol. He had indulged in a colossal speculation and lost out.
Forsaking the Raving Ravens, he had set forth to mobilize all the small, unattached boys at camp into the Pollywog Patrol, but the Pollywog Patrol had proved about as substantial as the shifting sand.
Like the beloved Black Lake it had both an inlet and an outlet. As fast as one boy entered it another had to go home, so that conducting the Pollywog Patrol was like pouring water into a leaky pail. Pee-wee, with all his flaunted efficiency, could not be at both ends of this patrol at the same time.
As soon as some miniature scout from New York had been duly initiated, some previously initiated scout from Chicago found that his time was up, and Pee-wee's time was chiefly occupied in rushing frantically about trying to keep pace with this epidemic of resignations.
At last the epidemic reached an acute stage and the Pollywog Patrol, after a glorious career of nine days, was struck a mortal blow, never to be heard of again except in the pages of history. Its three remaining members were summoned to their several homes simultaneously; one new scout was hastily secured but on learning that he could not be patrol leader he tendered his resignation and was soon called home to attend his sister's wedding. Scout Harris faced a cruel world alone.
Meanwhile, Billy Simpson had been called to Temple Camp from Bridgeboro to fill (if anyone could fill) the enormous space left vacant in the Raven Patrol by the withdrawal of its enterprising genius.
"Never mind," said Mr. Ellsworth, the troop's scoutmaster, "there are plenty of fish in the sea—to say nothing of Pollywogs. Bridgeboro is full of permanent material. You have all this winter to round up a new patrol."
"Only don't round up any snow men because they melt," said Roy Blakeley, leader of the Silver Foxes; "and don't bother with shadows because you can't depend on them. And when you get a scout put a paper weight on him so he won't blow away."
"If you'll give me some of the biscuits you make, I'll use them for weights," Pee-wee shouted.
"You mean you'll eat them," Roy said. "What are you going to name the new patrol? Why don't you name it the Canned Salmon? Then they can't get away from you."
"Sure, you can have a can-opener for your emblem," said Dorry Benton.
"Maybe we'll call ourselves the Airedales because scouts like fresh air," Pee-wee said. "I got a lot of ideas."
"He thinks Airedales are named after the air," said Doc Carson.
"Sure, just the same as Pennsylvania is named after the Pennsylvania Railroad," Roy said.
"You make me tired!" Pee-wee shouted disgustedly. "You leave it to me, I'll think up a name. I know four fellers already that'll join. Maybe I'll decide to start a whole new troop and not bother with this one."
"Why don't you start a whole new scout movement?" Roy asked. "Call it the Boy Scouts of Pee-wee Harris. Discharge the Boy Scouts of America altogether."
"I'll start something all right, you leave it to me," Pee-wee announced darkly. "You think you're smart just because you write stories about your adventures and you always make out that you're the hero. You always make out that I get the worst of it. Gee whiz, if I ever write any stories, I'll get my just deserts."
"Did I ever say you didn't get plenty of desserts?" Roy shot back at him. "I gave you three helpings in every story and that's all the thanks I get. You think so much about desserts that you're going to desert the troop. We should worry."
"If I write any stories I'll write them good and loud," Pee-wee shouted.
"Open the cut-out of your fountain pen," Roy said, "and be sure to turn to the right whenever you come to the end of a page and look out you don't skid."
"Maybe I'll write my remittances," Pee-wee said darkly.
"He means his reminiscences," said Arrie Van Arlen.
"I think," said Mr. Ellsworth, "that Scout Harris will be quite busy enough forming the new patrol, and when it is formed I hope he will present it to the First Bridgeboro Troop, B. S. A."
"That's us," said Westy Martin.
"I don't see how Pee-wee can get out of the troop," Mr. Ellsworth laughed, "because strictly speaking, he has never been in the troop; on the contrary the troop has been in him, as one might say."
"Good night, did he swallow that too?" said Roy. And he rolled backward off the troop-room table on which he had been sitting.
Though Pee-wee was without a patrol he was by no means without a troop. He still held his position of troop mascot and official target for the mirthful Silver Foxes. He was a whole patrol in himself and held his own against raillery and banter, his stock of retaliatory ammunition seeming never to be exhausted.
"I can handle them with both hands tied behind my back," he boasted, which is readily enough believed since it was mainly his tongue that he used.
But recruits did not flock to Pee-wee's standard. Perhaps this was partly because of the fall and winter season when the lure of camping and roughing it was in abeyance. Perhaps it was because he was so small that boys were fain to think that scouting was a thing for children and beneath their dignity.
Once or twice during the winter, Pee-wee piloted some half-convinced and bashful subject to the troop-room, which was an old railroad car (of fond memory) down by the river. Here, in the cosy warmth of the old cylinder stove, the troop played checkers and read and jollied Pee-wee, which was about all there was to do on winter nights. The visitors, unimpressed with these makeshift diversions of the off season, did not return, and so the good old springtime found Pee-wee still a scout indeed (with something left over) but a scout without a patrol.
And now the sturdy little missionary began to feel this keenly. Patrol spirit is usually not much in evidence during the winter; the several divisions of a troop intermingle and form a sort of club in which an odd member is quite at home. But with the coming of spring the patrol spirit becomes aroused. It is a case of "united we stand, divided we sprawl," as Roy Blakeley was fond of saying. Each patrol goes separately about its preparations for camping and hiking, does its shopping, repairs its tents, denounces and ridicules its associate patrols, and troop unity gives way somewhat to patrol unity. This is well and as it should be.
It was very much so with the well organized Bridgeboro troop. With the first breath of spring the Ravens became Ravens, the Elks foregathered and were Elks and nothing else, and the Silver Foxes began a series of exclusive meetings at Camp Solitaire under a big shady elm on Roy's lawn.
The Silver Foxes, imbibing the mirthful spirit of their leader, were all pretty much alike, and the Ravens were thankful that they were not like them, and the Elks congratulated themselves that they had more pep than the Ravens. "The Elks say the Ravens are no good and the Ravens say the Elks are no good and they're both right; we should worry," said Roy. "There's one good thing about the Elks and that is that they're not Ravens, and there's one good thing about the Ravens and that is that they're not Elks. They both have everything to be thankful for if not more so. They're in luck."
"Do you call that logic?" Pee-wee demanded in the tones of an earthquake. "If one thing is better than another thing how can that other thing be better than the other thing? You're crazy!"
"Goodness gracious, look who's here?" said Hunt Manners, who was sorting out some fish-hooks. "The whole Canned Salmon Patrol."
Pee-wee stood outside the tent, breathing hard after his long tramp up the hill to the Blakeley place.
"Don't you know this is private land?" Warde Hollister said, rather heedless of the possible effect of his remark.
"I didn't come in the tent, did I?" Pee-wee retorted wistfully.
"Come ahead in, Kid," said Roy. "Are you hungry? Here's some fish-hooks."
"No, I'm not hungry," Pee-wee said. He had been so touched by Warde's thoughtless remark that he held himself aloof from Roy's hospitality. "I only came up to tell you that the thunderstorm up the river did a lot of damage; a house was struck by lightning in North Bridgeboro and a lot of trees were blown down." This was not what he had come up for, though indeed the news was true, but his pride was touched by that remark of Warde's and he would not now admit that he had tramped up there just to visit them.
"Gee whiz, do you think I don't know that eight's a company, nine's a crowd with patrols?" he said. "Do you think I don't know that? Anyway, if I wanted to go and hang out with any patrol I'd go with the Ravens, wouldn't I? I only came up to tell you that, because I thought you'd like to know. Do you think I'm trying to find out your secrets? Gee whiz!"
"Come ahead in, Kid," said Roy; "Warde didn't mean that."
"I will not."
"What's the matter with you anyway?" Will Dawson asked.
"I'm not in your patrol," Pee-wee said.
"What's the big idea?" Westy Martin asked. "You weren't in it when you went on the bee-line hike with us either, were you?"
"That's different," Pee-wee said. "Anyway I was a scout then, because I was in the Ravens and anyway I've got to go to the store."
Before they realized it he was gone.
"What the dickens did you want to say that for?" Roy asked Warde.
"Oh, it just jumped out of my mouth," Warde said; "I didn't think he'd be so touchy. Wait, I'll call him back."
But the sturdy little figure trudging down the hill paid no attention to Warde's call. And the Silver Foxes, friendly and sympathetic as they were, were too preoccupied to think much about this trifling affair. Perhaps they had just a little disinclination to having visitors, even the little mascot, participating in their private councils just then.
The point of the whole matter was that Pee-wee had been unintentionally eliminated; it was a sort of automatic process attributable to the springtime. And he found himself alone. He was not out of the troop, but he was not in any of the patrols, and in spite of all his spectacular missionary work he had not been able to form a patrol.
Pee-wee's pride was as great as his voice and his appetite, and he would not sponge on the patrols which had a full membership and were busy with their own concerns. The rock on which he had stood all winter had split in three and there was no place for him on any of the pieces.
On Saturday morning the Silver Foxes went into the city to buy some camping things and to see a movie show in the afternoon. The Ravens went off for a hike. A Saturday spent alone was more than the soul of Pee-wee could endure, so he conquered his foolish pride and went up to Connie Bennett's house to find out what the Elks were going to do. He would not join in with the Elks, he told himself, but he would pal with any single Elk, or even with two or three. That would be all right as long as he did not foist himself upon a whole patrol. "Eight's a company, nine's a crowd, gee whiz, I have to admit that," he said to himself. "It's all right for me to go with one feller even if he's a scout but a patrol's different."
It was a wistful and rather pathetic little figure that Mrs. Bennett discovered upon the porch.
"Connie? Oh gracious, he's been gone an hour, dear," she said. "They all went away with Mr. Collins in his auto. I told him he must be back for supper. How is it you're not with them, Walter?"
"I—I ain't in that patrol," said Pee-wee; "it goes by patrols. Anyway I'm sorry I troubled you."
He turned and went down the steps and picking up a stick drew it across the slats of a fence as he went up the street. The outlandish noise seemed to act as a balm to his disappointment and to keep him company.
CASTLES IN THE AIR
The lonesomeness of Robinson Crusoe on his desert island was nothing compared to the lonesomeness of Pee-wee on that Saturday morning. He might have attached himself to any of the three patrols and had a day's pleasure, but his pride had stood in the way.
He had always been something of a free lance in the troop and been regarded as a troop institution. But there had always been his official place among the Ravens waiting for him whenever it suited his wanton fancy to return like a prodigal to the fold. Now, in the pleasant springtime with the troop divided for the summer rivalries, he found himself quite isolated.
No one was to blame for this; a scout must be in one patrol or another, and if all patrols are full then he must make himself the nucleus of a new one. That is what Mr. Ellsworth had told Pee-wee.
"Gee whiz, nucleuses aren't so easy to be, that's one thing," Pee-wee muttered to himself as he bent his aimless way in the direction of Barrel Alley. "Maybe he thinks it's easy to be a nucleus. Nucleuses are hard to be, I'll tell the world. Anyway I can be a pioneer scout, that's one thing. You don't have to be a nucleus or anything to be one of those. They don't have to bother with patrols, they don't, they're lucky."
He ambled along kicking a stone before him in a disconsolate, disgruntled way. He followed it wherever it went, ever and again kicking it back onto the sidewalk; the simple pastime seemed to afford him infinite relief. And meanwhile, glowing visions arose in his mind, such visions as no one but a poet or a lonely boy on a Saturday morning in the springtime could possibly have.
No one had injured him in the least, he was liked by all, he was simply the unhappy victim of circumstances. But in a mood of heroic retaliation against the troop he pictured himself as a pioneer scout residing aloof in a grim tower, surrounded by wireless apparatus and covered with merit badges. Scouts from all over the world would make pilgrimages to his obscure retreat for a timid glimpse of the mysterious hero.
The glowing vision was somewhat marred by his conception of himself eating a huge sandwich as he looked down from his parapet upon the worshipping throng below. Roy Blakeley would be down there among the others, his jollying propensity subdued by a feeling of awe as he gazed at the great scout hermit, the famous pioneer scout who sent messages to lesser scouts the world over. They would whisper, "he looks just like his pictures in Boys' Life," and he would smile down on them and . . .
Plunk! The pioneer scout had collided with a man on the sidewalk and he returned to Bridgeboro with a suddenness that surprised even himself.
"Excuse me," he said.
"Certainly," said the man.
Pee-wee recovered his rock, and began kicking it along the sidewalk again. "I'll show them," he said moodily.
He was about to ascend his scout throne again and engage in the gracious pastime of receiving delegations of common, ordinary scouts in his dim, wooded domain when he found himself at the edge of a region which was not in the least like the romantic wilderness of his vision. This was Barrel Alley, the habitat of Jimmy Mattenburg and Sweet Caporal and the McNulty twins.
Barrel Alley was the slum neighborhood of Bridgeboro and it was not very large. But it was large enough. Pee-wee explored the crooked, muddy, sordid street, gazing wistfully here and there for possible recruits. But no human material was to be seen. The older boys were playing craps in Dennahan's lot and the smaller boys were watching them. One lonely sentinel was perched on the fence scanning the horizon for cops. For this he received the regular union pay of a stale apple-core.
He was an unkempt urchin with an aggressive and challenging countenance, but he had solved several problems in economy. One of these was the entire elimination of stockings and garters. This was accomplished by the use of a pair of trousers with legs of such ample diameter and of such length as to render stockings altogether superfluous. This released both garters for more important duties, they being tied end to end, thus constituting a sort of single strand suspender which at its junction with his trousers in front was securely held by a large nail. His hair presented an appearance not unlike the negligent architecture of an eagle's nest, which is of the bungalow type in its loose irregularity. He had not the slightest reason for supposing that Pee-wee was equipped with commissary stores, but on general principles he said,
"Give us a hunk of candy, will yer?"
As luck would have it, this random shot, fired at every strange boy from the upper world, hit the mark, to his unspeakable astonishment. Pulling out of his pocket a licorice jaw-breaker of vast dimensions, Pee-wee sent it shooting in a bee-line at the face of the stranger.
Never before in all his checkered history had Keekie Joe ever received any edible of any character whatever in response to his menacing demands. He had always assumed that boys who were well dressed had fruit or candy in their pockets. He had sometimes required them to verify their denials by an exhibition of the interior of these receptacles. His invariable demand had become a habit with him. Therefore the little sugared black brick which now hit him in the eye came as an unprecedented surprise. For a moment he did not know whether to construe it as a propitiatory gift or a warlike missile.
"What's the matter with you, can't you catch?" Pee-wee demanded.
It required but a few seconds for Keekie Joe to decide to run true to form. The situation was an unusual one, the missile was a delicious morsel, and was nothing more nor less than what he had demanded. But still it had been thrown at him and Keekie Joe elected to consider it as a shot fired by the enemy.
"Whatcher chuckin' things at me fer?" he demanded, descending from the fence and approaching Pee-wee with a terrible look of menace. He had been careful, however, to pick the jawbreaker up and put it in his mouth.
"Didn't you say you wanted one?" Pee-wee asked. "Didn't you just put it in your mouth?"
"Never you mind wot I done," said Keekie Joe. "D'yer think yer cin sass me?"
"I'll show you how to catch if you'll say you'll be a scout," Pee-wee answered. There could be no better illustration of his desperation as a scout missionary than this artless proposition to the sentinel of Barrel Alley.
"Who can't catch?" Keekie Joe demanded.
"Yer dasn' say it again."
"You can't catch, you can't catch, you can't catch," said Pee-wee.
There seemed nothing left now but to break off diplomatic relations altogether. The issue was clear. But Keekie Joe did not plunge his outlandish person into war.
"If I didn' have ter lay keekie I'd slam yer one," he announced.
"What's the use of giving you candy if we can't be friends?" Pee-wee said. "Gee whiz, I wouldn't care how much candy fellers threw at me; the more the merrier. They can throw mince pies at me for all I care," he added. "If you want to be a scout I'll show you how and we can start a patrol maybe."
The word patrol seemed to suggest something ominous to Keekie Joe, for he glanced furtively up and down the alley, and then waved his hand reassuringly to the group in the middle of the field.
Pee-wee perceived now that the scene of the crap game had been selected with keen military wisdom, affording a safe avenue of precipitate retreat in any direction. Disaster could have resulted only from a surrounding host. Officer McMahon, the tyrant on this squalid beat, was large. But he was not large enough to surround the camp.
The crap-shooters of Barrel Alley had been surprised in every nook and corner of their neighborhood until they had hit upon the bold expedient of playing in an open lot, reposing their trust in a sentinel. It would not have been well for the sentinel to relax his vigilance.
"What I want ter join them scout kids fer?" Keekie Joe inquired. "Der yer call me a sissy?"
"Do you call the scouts sissies?" Pee-wee inquired angrily. "They have more fun than you do, that's one sure thing. If you don't want to join you don't have to but you don't have to get mad about it. Gee whiz, you're always mad, kind of. I guess you got up out of the wrong side of the bed, that's what I think."
This was not true, for indeed Keekie Joe did not sleep in a bed at all; he slept on a heap of old inner tubes in Ike Levine's tire repair shop. He was about to resent this slander from Pee-wee with a glowering look and a threat, when suddenly something happened, which precipitately terminated his performance of his official functions. His father called him from a tenement across the street, accompanying his summons with such dismal predictions of what would happen if he did not obey that the official sentinel had no choice but to desert his post.
"If I have ter come over there'n git yer," the father said, "I'll——"
Poor Joe glanced at his father in the window, then at the gamesters in the field. It was evident that chastisement of the severest character awaited him in any case. For a moment he had a wild notion of making a spectacular retreat along the street, crawling through a broken part of the fence beyond the range of parental vision, and resuming his duties of sentinel at another vantage point. Such a maneuver would at least postpone a reckoning with his father and enable him to be faithful to his trust. A very unworthy trust it may have been but his one thought was to be faithful to it. And there you have Keekie Joe in a nutshell . . .
A QUESTION OF DUTY
Pee-wee's advice to Joe in this predicament was rather singular, and the scout law on which he based it covered a rather larger field of obligation than was necessary in the circumstances.
"Go ahead over," he whispered; "you have to obey your parents and all other duly constituted authorities. I'll lay keekie for you while you're gone; go ahead over, I'll keep watch."
"Yes, you will!" said Joe incredulously. "I know youz guys, y'll put one over, that's what y'll do. Wat'd'yer mean, constute—con—authorities? Yes yer will, not!"
"That shows how much you know about scouts," Pee-wee said, always ready to explain the ins and outs of scouting. "Do you think I'd cheat? Gee whiz, I've got to be faithful to a trust, haven't I? If I say I'll do a thing I'll do it. You go ahead over and I'll keep watch and if I don't do it you can punch me in the eye the next time you see me."
It was not so much this proffer of indemnity as a supplementary threat from the window across the way which decided Keekie Joe. He did not believe in Pee-wee for he did not believe in anybody. But he was a bit puzzled at this self-possessed little stranger from another world. There was a straightforward, clear look in the little scout's eyes which bespoke both friendliness and sincerity and Keekie Joe did not understand this. The emergency decided him to repose faith in the strange boy but it was not in him to do this graciously.
"You keep yer eyes peeled till I git back, and giv'm the high sign, d'yer hear?" he said with insolent skepticism, "or the first time I see yer on Main Street I'll black up both yer eyes fer yer, d'yer see?"
"That's one thing I like about you," said Pee-wee; "gee whiz, you obey scout laws without even knowing them. That shows you're a kind of a scout and you don't know it."
Keekie Joe did not look much like a scout, as he shuffled across the street; he did not even look like the rawest of raw scout material. But statues are carved out of hard rock. And Keekie Joe was a very hard rock indeed.
Pee-wee vaulted up onto the ramshackle fence, placed one of those granite bricks known as a licorice jaw-breaker in his mouth, and prepared for his indefinite vigil. He was not thinking of the "constituted authorities," he was not thinking of the crap-shooters either; his back was turned to them and his all seeing eye was fixed on the distant street corner. He was thinking of Keekie Joe and of how Keekie Joe had tried to obey one of the good scout laws by being faithful to a trust. And there you have Pee-wee Harris in a nut-shell . . .
The game in the middle of the large field must have become exciting, for its votaries were gathered into a close group. None of the players seemed able now to spare so much as a cautious glance toward the street. Once, during his intense preoccupation, Slats Corbett gave a quick, furtive glance afar, but it was only in a sort of sub-consciousness that he glimpsed a figure sitting on the fence, its back toward him. That was enough.
The group gathered closer, voices were heard in excited altercation, there were long intervals of silence. The group had shrunken and become compact. All were stooping. Their preoccupation seemed intense. They had forgotten all about the lookout. Occasionally some civilian passed along the distant alley and guilty instinct caused one or another of the group to glance thither to give a hasty appraisal of his mission and character. And so the wicked game went on. And the sports of Barrel Alley never knew that their stronghold had been invaded by the boy scouts.
Then around the distant corner appeared two figures in civilian clothes, strangers in Barrel Alley. They were County Detectives Slippett and Spotson. They strolled down the alley innocently. Keekie Joe, whose activities were chiefly local, knew them not. But Pee-wee Harris, Scout, knew them. On one of his long hikes he had seen them arrest a motorist in Northvale. He had seen them loitering in the post office at Little Valley.
They did duty in the various municipalities of the county where the familiar faces of the local officials were a stumbling block to the apprehension of wrongdoers. They were going to break up this ring of gambling rowdies, and so forth and so forth and so forth . . .
Pee-wee's first impulse was to shout, but on second thought it occurred to him that the army of invasion consisting of two, one of them might make a flank move on hearing his warning voice, and that one detective could thus drive the criminals into the very arms of the other, as they passed through the back yard of Chin Foo's laundry. Chin Foo's back yard was a sort of trap.
So instead of shouting he descended from the fence with lightning agility and ran across the field as fast as his legs would carry him, and pell-mell into the group.
"Two detectives are coming down the alley," he panted. "Beat it over that way and then you'll sure not run into one of them because they've got—got—a lot of strat—strat—strat—strat—egy—they have—you'd better hurry up."
The time it required for the group to disperse can not be indicated by any word in the English language. They were there and then they were not there. As Pee-wee stood amid scattered coins and dice he was conscious of distant forms scaling fences, wriggling through holes, and of one pair of legs disappearing majestically over a dilapidated roof. As a disorderly retreat it was a masterpiece.
It was not in Pee-wee's nature to run from anything or anybody. So there he stood amid the telltale mementoes of the dreadful game while Detectives Slippett and Spotson strolled into the field. They were just in time to behold a fleeting vision of forms wriggling through fences, gliding around buildings, and scrambling over roof tops.
County Detective Spotson was quick to sense the situation. Taking Pee-wee roughly by the shoulder he demanded in that sophisticated voice and manner which all detectives acquire and which sometimes passes for shrewdness, "What's the big idea, huh? Tipped them on, did you? Well, you're a very clever kid, ain't you?" He removed his big hand from Pee-wee's shoulder and injected his fingers down the back of the boy's neck, grabbing him by the collar and gathering it so that it almost choked him.
This terrifying grip, which is always intended to be considered as the preliminary of arrest, did not frighten Pee-wee as it would have frightened Keekie Joe, but it touched his pride and enraged him, and he wriggled frantically. There is no indignity which can be put upon a boy like this bullying, official grip of his collar.
"You let me go," he said excitedly; "I wasn't playing here and you didn't see me do anything wrong; you let me go, do you hear!" His utter helplessness, despite every contortion, to free himself from this degrading kind of grasp, drove him distracted and he kicked with all his might and main. "You let me go, do you hear!" he shouted.
"Well, what were you doing here then, huh?" the officer asked gruffly. "Yer gave'm the tip, didn't yer?"
"You let go, I'm not going to run away," Pee-wee said. "Do you think I'm scared of you? You let me go!"
"Do yer know what an accessory is?" Detective Spotson demanded, loosening his grip somewhat.
"It's something you buy to put on an automobile," Pee-wee said. "You let go, I'm not going to run."
Detective Spotson, like Keekie Joe, trusted nobody. But since he had no intention of arresting Pee-wee and since the diminutive captive seemed rather angered than frightened, he released his hold. By a series of wriggles and contortions, Pee-wee adjusted his clothing and settled his neck in his stretched neckband. "Why don't—why—why don't you take a—a—a feller your size?" he half cried and half panted.
The officers now began to have some glimmerings of the fact that here was a boy who did not belong in Barrel Alley. They were a little taken aback by the exhibition of so much pride and spirit. The customary, ominous grip of the collar had not worked.
"What were you doing down here, Sonny?" Detective Slippett asked.
"I came down to hunt for fellers to start a scout patrol," Pee-wee said, "and one feller was laying keekie for cops and he had to go home so I took his place, because he had to keep his word with those fellers, didn't he? Maybe you wouldn't promise fellers to do that but, gee whiz, if you did promise them you'd have to keep your word, wouldn't you? If he sees I help him maybe he'll get to be a scout, won't he? Do you mean to tell me it isn't more important to be a scout than it is to let fellers get to be arrested? Even—even Roosevelt said the scouts were important, but he didn't say it was important you should catch fellers, did he?"
"That's some argument," Detective Slippett said, half smiling.
"I know even better arguments than that," Pee-wee boasted.
"Well," said Detective Spotson rather more gruffly, "you'd better look out how you try to interfere with the law, young feller, 'cause first thing you know you'll find yourself in jail. And you'd better keep away from this outfit down here, too. Now you chase yourself back to where you belong—see?"
"You thought you were going to scare me, didn't you?" Pee-wee said.
Pee-wee retraced his steps back across the field feeling righteous and triumphant. To him the interests of the Boy Scouts of America superseded every other interest and like the true missionary he did not scruple overmuch as to means employed.
As he emerged Into the alley, Keekie Joe, looking frightened and apprehensive, appeared out of the surrounding squalor. It was a characteristic of Keekie Joe that he always appeared without warning. A long habit of sneaking had given him this uncanny quality. Suddenly Pee-wee, in the full blush of his heroic triumph, was aware of the poor wretch shuffling along beside him.
"Wot'd they say ter yer? Wot'd yer tell 'em?" he asked fearfully.
"I didn't tell them anything," Pee-wee said. "As long as the fellers got away they won't blame you. Anyway, if you'd have been there they'd have been caught, because you didn't know those detectives because they're strangers around here."
"How'd you know them?" Keekie Joe inquired.
"Gee, scouts are supposed to know everything," Pee-wee informed him.
Keekie Joe gave a side glance at Pee-wee as he shuffled along at his side. He was rather interested in a class of boys who knew all officials on sight; here indeed was something worth knowing. "Yer spotted 'em?" he asked incredulously.
"Sure I did," said Pee-wee with great alacrity; "because scouts are supposed to be observant, see? I saw them in Northvale once. But, believe me, I didn't holla. Oh, no! I ran over and told the fellers and they all got away, so as long as you didn't leave them in the lurch it was all right. So now will you join the scouts? They always carry licorice jaw-breakers in their pockets," he added as a supplementary inducement; "anyway I do—lemon ones too, and strawberry ones."
"How many is in your gang?" Joe asked.
"Nobody yet," said Pee-wee, "because I haven't got it started. But if you'll join in with me we'll start one. You're supposed to hike and run a lot but if you want to run after fire engines and ambulances it's all right." He said this because of the favorite outdoor sport of Barrel Alley of trailing fire engines and ambulances. "So will you join?" he added.
They paused on the frontier of Joe's domain in the rear of the big bank building which fronted on Main Street. Here was the makeshift sidewalk of barrel staves whence the alley derived its name. "You have to be, kind of, you have to be a sort of a—kind of wild and reckless to join the scouts," Pee-wee pleaded. "Maybe you're kind of scared on account of thinking that you have to be civilized, but you don't; you don't even eat off plates," he added with sudden inspiration. "We cook potatoes just like tramps do, right out in the woods; we hold them on sticks over the fire. So now will you join? If you will you'll be elected patrol leader because there's only one to vote for you and I'm the one and I'm a majority. See? So if you come in right now you'll be sure to have a majority and I'll buy some Eskimo pies, too."
"Der yez swipe de pertaters?" Joe asked.
"We don't exactly kind of what you would call swipe them," Pee-wee was forced to confess. "But we get them in ways that are just as good. They taste just as good as if they were swiped, honest they do," he hastened to add. "So will you come down by the river with me? That old railroad car down there is our meeting place and it's got a stove in it and everything and there won't be any one there to-day except just you and me and we'll have an election and I'll vote for you and you can vote for yourself and so you'll be sure to be elected patrol leader. And after that I'll show you what you have to do and most of it is eating and things like that. So will you say yes?"
Keekie Joe was not to be lured by promises of "eats," though he was curious about the old railroad car. His answer to Pee-wee was characteristic of him. "I woudn' join 'em, because they're a lot of sissies," he said, "but yer needn' be ascared ter come down here because I woudn' leave no guy hurt yer; I woudn' leave 'em guy yer because yer a Boy Scout. If any of 'em starts guyen yer he'll get an upper cut, see?"
Pee-wee went on his way thoroughly disappointed and disheartened. His thought was not that he had made a friend, but that he had lost a possible recruit. He had cherished no thought of reforming the wicked and uplifting the lowly in his effort to enlist this outlandish denizen of the slums. He was not the goody-goody little scout propagandist that we sometimes read about. He had simply been desperate and had lost all sense of discrimination. Anything would do if he could only start a patrol. What this sturdy little scout failed to understand was that in this particular enterprise the Boy Scouts had lost out but that Pee-wee Harris had won.
APPLE BLOSSOM TIME
Pee-wee stopped in Bennett's Fresh Confectionery and regaled his drooping spirit with a chocolate soda. Then he continued his stroll up Main Street. He had always advertised his conviction that things invariably came his way but nothing came his way on this lonely Saturday morning.
He paused here and there gazing idly into shop windows, he stood gaping at a man who was having trouble with his auto, and at last he wandered into the public library. The place seemed like a tomb on that Saturday morning in the springtime. Not a boy was there to be seen. "Gee whiz, they've got something better to do than read books," he thought to himself.
There at the desk sat the librarian, silent, preoccupied. In the reading room were a few scattered readers intent on newspapers and magazines. The place, familiar and pleasant enough to Pee-wee at other times, seemed alien and uninviting at a time of day when he was usually too busy to call upon its quiet resources of treasure.
On this balmy holiday it seemed almost like school; it had a booky, studious atmosphere which turned him against it. And to complete this impression and make the place abhorrent to him there sat Miss Bunting, the history teacher, in a corner of the reference room with several books spread about her. To Pee-wee on Saturday morning this seemed nothing less than an insult.
He approached a shelf near the librarian's desk above which was a sign that read BOOKS ESPECIALLY RECOMMENDED. Here were always a few old time favorites, worth while books made readily available. From these Pee-wee half-heartedly drew out a copy of Treasure Island and took it to a table. He knew his Treasure Island. In a disgruntled mood he sank far down in his chair and opened the book at random. He was too familiar with the enthralling pages of the famous story to seek solace in it now, but there was nothing else to do and he was too out of sorts to search further. Presently he was idly skimming over the page before him.
The appearance of the island when I came on deck next morning was altogether changed. Although the breeze had now utterly failed, we had made a great deal of way during the night, and were now lying becalmed about half a mile to the southeast of the low eastern coast. Gray-colored woods covered a large part of the surface. This even tint was indeed broken up by streaks of yellow sandbreak in the lower lands, and by many tall trees of the pine family, out-topping the others—some singly, some in clumps; but the general coloring was uniform and sad. The hills ran up . . .
Pee-wee blinked his eyes, yawned, then suddenly drew himself up into an erect sitting posture and pushed the book from him. "Gee whiz," he mused, "that's what I'd like, to go off to a desert island. They don't have any desert islands now; that's one thing I don't like about this century. Hikes and camping and all that make me tired; I'd like to be on a desert island, that's what I'd like to do. I'd like to be marooned. Gee whiz, we only kid ourselves trying to make ourselves think we're doing things that are wild. I guess all the desert islands are discovered by now; oh boy, there were lots and lots of them in the seventeenth century; that's my favorite century, the seventeenth, on account of buried treasure and desert islands."
Indulging these disconsolate spring musings, Pee-wee sank down in his chair again, a frowning, dreamy figure, and floated out of the library and away from all the sordid environments of Bridgeboro toward a desert island situated in the south-eastern part of the seventeenth century. It was a long, long way off and he had to cross the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to get to it. He was no longer a pioneer scout now, nor a scout at all, but a doughty explorer about to set foot for the first time on soil that white man had never trod before.
He sank farther down in his chair as he voyaged afar. He was soon out of sight of land and almost out of sight of the few readers in that drowsy old library. He continued to sink lower and lower in his chair as if he had sprung a leak. Only his round, curly head was above the table. The island which he reached was a delectable spot, an earthly Paradise, with trees laden with fruit which came down like summer showers when he shook the trees. He wandered about on the enchanted shores, and ate so much fruit that oddly he felt that he was himself a tree and that some one was trying to shake fruit out of him. . . . He sat up with a start and found himself confronting the smiling countenance of Miss Warden, the librarian, who had been shaking him not unkindly.
"Where have you been?" she asked, laughing.
"To a desert island," said Pee-wee.
He roused himself and wandered out into the balmy air and down toward the river, a lonesome little figure. A broad field bordered the stream and crossing this he approached the old car which was the troops' headquarters. But before he reached it he was aware of something which caused him to rub his eyes and stare. As sure as he lived, there in front of him was the seventeenth century, F. O. B. Bridgeboro, with all appurtenances and accessories. He stood gaping at a little island out in the middle of the stream, which had no more business there than Pee-wee had had to be dozing in the library.
Pee-wee stood stark still in the middle of the field and rubbed his eyes to make sure that he was awake. There was not the slightest doubt that what he saw was very real. The river at that point was quite wide and its opposite shore was bordered with sparse woodland.
Pee-wee had bathed and fished and canoed in this neighborhood almost as long as he could remember and he was perfectly certain that there had never been an island there. He knew an island when he saw one and nothing was more certain than that this one was a stranger in the neighborhood.
Yet it seemed to be perfectly at home out there in the middle of the stream, just as if it had been born there and had grown up there. There was nothing fugitive looking about it at all. In the true spirit of the twentieth century, which is all for time saving and convenience, it had voyaged to Pee-wee, thereby saving him the time and perils of an extended cruise. It had, as one might say, been delivered at his door.
This was certainly an improvement over the old, out-of-date method of desert island exploration. Such patent, adjustable islands would bring the joys of adventurous pioneering "within the reach of all" as advertisement writers are so fond of declaring, just as the phonograph, has brought music into every home.
"That's funny," said Pee-wee, pausing in amazement. "That wasn't here yesterday, because I was down here yesterday. Anyway as long as no one's here I'm going to be the one to go and discover it. Findings is keepings; it's just the same with islands as it is with everything else."
To increase his astonishment and cause his brimming cup of joy to overflow a tree stood upon the little speck of green land laden with white blossoms, which wafted a faint but fragrant promise to the enchanted scout upon the distant shore.
"That's an apple tree," said Pee-wee, his mouth watering. "I'm going over there to discover it and then it's mine, the whole island's mine because findings is keepings, that's international law."
No doubt he felt that the League of Nations would stand in back of him in the matter of this epoch-making discovery.
PEE-WEE EXPLORES THE ISLAND
There was no doubt at all of the reality of this extraordinary apparition. Pee-wee, who was always sure of everything, was doubly sure of this. Squint and rub his eyes as he would, there was the desert island in the middle of the river with the tree surmounting it. By all the precedents in history this island was his. He had as much right to it as the king of Spain had to San Salvador, more in fact, for the king of Spain had never seen the island of San Salvador.
If there was any good in history at all (and Pee-wee had his doubts about that) why then this mysterious island belonged to him. Miss Bunting, if she had any sense of fairness at all, would concede this. If the good old rule of findings is keepings applied to monarchs it certainly applied to Boy Scouts. So Pee-wee prepared to set sail and formally take possession of his discovery. He would sail around it as Columbus had sailed around the coast of Cuba. . . .
Entering the troops' deserted old car he got the oars of the old flat bottom boat belonging to the troop. He also procured a black marking stick used for marking scout signs on rocks, and a pasteboard target on the back of which he printed in ostentatious lettering.
THIS DESERT ISLAND IS DISCOVERED BY WALTER HARRIS AND ALL PRETAINING TO IT INCLUDING APPLES AND EVERYTHING AND OTHER KINDS OF FOOD AND WILD ANIMALS IF THERE ARE ANY ALSO PRESIOUS METTLES AND ALL NATIVES MUST SWEAR TO WALTER HARRIS I MEAN THEY MUST SWEAR ALLEAGANCE AND SAID WALTER HARRIS SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT OF SETTLEMENT.
P. S. ESPECIALLY APPLES.
Having thus established his rights according to the most historical rule for the acquisition of new territory, Pee-wee set sail in his gallant bark and after an uneventful voyage of seven minutes drew his boat half-way up the rugged shore.
Though his back was toward the island during the entire cruise, he knew that land was near fully a minute and a half before reaching it by the presence of several grasshoppers kicking vainly in the surf. But what particularly attracted his attention as indicating the presence of human life upon the island was part of a cruller bobbing near the shore. This startled and impressed him as the footprint in the sand startled and impressed Robinson Crusoe.
Pee-wee could hardly believe that on the very day which had begun so inauspiciously he had actually set foot upon a strange island, but there it was under his very feet and it could not get away for he was standing on it.
Having fastened his sign to the tree trunk he proceeded to explore the island. This was done mainly with his eyes since the island was too small for the usual form of exploration.
It consisted of a little spot of land about fifteen feet in diameter, held together by the roots of the tree. It was hubbly and grass-covered and one side of it had a kind of ragged edge. It seemed to be subject to earthquakes for as Pee-wee stood upon it he felt a slight jarring beneath him. Undoubtedly the island depended on the tree more than the tree depended on the island; one might have fancied that the island carried too much soil.
But Pee-wee's surprise at the instability of his Conquest was nothing to his astonishment at the voice which he presently heard above him.
"Hello, what are you doing down there?"
Pee-wee looked up and beheld a boy seated comfortably in the branches of the tree. He was looking down through the profusion of blossoms with an exceedingly merry face, and had apparently been witnessing the arrival of the discoverer with silent amusement.
"Some desert island, hey?" he laughed.
"Are you a native?" Pee-wee shouted.
"Sure, I'm part of the wild life of the island, I'm a scout," the boy called down. "Come on up, there's room for two on this branch. If the island should lurch you might get your feet wet."
"What is this island anyway?" Pee-wee asked, somewhat taken aback by the discovery that he was not the discoverer. "Where does it belong? Anyway I'm the boss of it because I discovered it. I just put my sign up and you can come down and see it if you want to and swear allegiance."
"What are you talking about?" the boy called down. "I was on it before it was born."
"Do you mean to tell me I didn't discover you?" Pee-wee shouted up.
"No, I discovered you," said the other boy.
"What do you mean, you knew it before it was born?" Pee-wee demanded skeptically. "How could it have been before it was? If a thing isn't, how can you know it? You're crazy. I was the first one to discover it since it was here and you're a part of it. But anyway I'd like to know how it got here, that's one thing I'd like to know."
"Come on up here and I'll tell you," said the wild native.
Pee-wee climbed up and sat on the limb beside his new friend. He was a boy somewhat older than Pee-wee with a face so round that the face of the man in the moon would have seemed narrow by comparison. And there was a redness in his cheeks which made his head seem almost like an apple grown prematurely ripe upon that blossom laden tree. He wore the negligee scout attire and his happy-go-lucky nature was made the more piquant by the easy, humorous fashion in which he sat upon the limb, swinging his legs.
Pee-wee could not have found it in his heart to quarrel with any boy whose face looked so much like an apple, and, moreover, it was apparent that here was a boy whom it would be utterly impossible to quarrel with on any ground whatever—or in any tree whatever.
"Gee whiz, this is a funny thing," Pee-wee said; "I was kind of making believe that I was an explorer, but anyway I'm glad you're here."
"I'm here because I'm here," said the other boy.
"Gee, I can't deny that," said Pee-wee.
"It doesn't make any difference to me," said the boy; "I'd just as soon be in one place as another."
"As long as it's not school," said Pee-wee.
"Oh, that's understood," said the other boy; "let's talk of something pleasant."
"I bet there'll be a lot of apples here later," said Pee-wee; "when it's vacation, hey?"
"I don't know whether they'll be here," said the other boy, "because you can't trust this blamed island over night, but they'll be on the tree, wherever it is, and the way to find them will be to look for the tree."
"You said it," said Pee-wee. "What's your name?"
"Roland Poland," said the boy; "Roly Poly for short."
"Mine's Walter Harris, but they call me Pee-wee. How did this island get here anyway?"
"It started being an island under my very feet," said Roly Poly. "There are five scouts in my patrol besides myself; we're just getting started——"
"I'm the only one in my patrol," Pee-wee interrupted. "Where do you come from?"
"From North Bridgeboro," said Roly Poly, swinging his legs. "The six of us went to camp for the day just above old Trimmer's land up the river."
"I know him," Pee-wee said; "he's a grouch."
"Very muchly," said Roly; "he's worse than algebra."
"He's worse than algebra and civil government put together," said Pee-wee.
"Did you say civil?" said Roly Poly; "don't mention civil in the same sentence with him; he's the man that put the crab in crab-apple."
"He's got a dandy orchard, though," said Pee-wee.
"Sure, this is a part of it," said Roly Poly.
THE LOOKOUT SEES A SAIL
"Good night," said Pee-wee; "I don't blame it for going away from him. Can he take it back? It's an island now and it's part of Bridgeboro. He can't take it on account of international law; that's what I think. How did it happen?"
"It's a very short story," said his new friend; "it's only about a mile and a half long—from North Bridgeboro down to here. We were camping in Wallace's grove and a little way down the river we saw a kind of a little spot of land with a tree on it. There were lots of apple trees all around there near the shore. We didn't know that orchard belonged to old Trimmer."
"He thinks he owns the whole river," said Pee-wee.
"That little spot of land stuck out sort of like a balcony on account of it being near the bend of the river; the river coming around the bend sort of scooped a place out underneath it; it was all under-mined——"
"I know what happened! I know what happened!" Pee-wee shouted. "I know the place, it was nice and shady underneath it and you could go under it in a canoe; lots of times I did."
"Well, you never will any more," said Roly Poly.
"Go on, tell me! Go on, tell me!" Pee-wee encouraged excitedly.
"There was a pole sticking out of the water right near there," Pee-wee's new friend continued, "and we thought it meant there was good fishing there. So I said I'd go and see if I could catch a couple of eels and sunfish or something. While I was out at the edge of that little knob of land or whatever you want to call it, all of a sudden I could feel something giving way under me and the first thing I knew the whole business was in the water.
"Oh, you should have heard those fellows laugh as I went sailing down the river. That was about ten o'clock this morning and the tide was running down strong. This little old island flopped around and went every which way but it stayed right side up anyway and do you think I'd desert the ship? By the time we flopped downstream this far the tide was so low that our little old roots dragged the bottom and we stopped for keeps. So here we are till the tide comes in anyway. I don't know whether we'll float in deep water or not, or whether we'll capsize in deep water or not and I don't know anything about international law, but a life on the ocean wave for me."
"I know all about international law," Pee-wee shouted. "Real estate is in a certain place, isn't it? If a man owns real estate it's bounded by something, isn't it? Well, then, if it isn't bounded by those things any more how can it belong to that same man? If a man owns land in a certain place and it stops being in that place, whose is it?"
"Search me," said Roly Poly.
"Besides I've got an inspiration; do you know what those are?" Pee-wee vociferated.
"Have you got it with you?"
"Sure I've got it with me! Don't I always have them with me?"
Roly Poly seemed amused.
"There are two kinds of scouts, aren't there?" Pee-wee asked vociferously. "Regular scouts and sea scouts. Sea scouts are supposed to live on the water and regular scouts are supposed to live under the trees, like. So we can do both and we'll be combination scouts. We'll be the Combination Scouts of America, hey? Will you?"
"I'll be anything as long as it's Saturday; I'm not particular," said Roly Poly.
"Because my father knows a man that's a lawyer and he'll stick up for us," Pee-wee continued excitedly. "Because old Trimmer hasn't got any deed that says he owns an island, has he? All right, this is an island in Bridgeboro. You can't deny that, can you? Let's hear you deny that. All right, then, if he comes and tries to get this island, he'll be trespassing, won't he? And so we'll start the Combination Scouts of America and we'll call ourselves the—the—the——"
"The Sardine Patrol," suggested Roly.
"We'll call ourselves the Crab-apple Patrol," said Pee-wee, "because apples are on land and crabs are in the water. Will you?"
"I see a sail on the horizon," said Roly.
"If it's old Trimmer let me handle him," said Pee-wee.
"It's the rest of the patrol," said Roly. "Do you see those two canoes coming around the bend? We'll have a meeting of the general staff and decide what to do."
"Whatever we do, we'll do something, hey?" said Pee-wee.
"More than that," said Roly.
"Anyway, we'll start a patrol or something, hey?"
"Oh, we'll start something, leave it to us," said Roly Poly.
THE OTHERS ARRIVE
The arrival of the five North Bridgeboro scouts was the occasion of much merriment and banter. These boys from the small village up the river had formed themselves into a patrol but they were two members short of the required number and they had no scoutmaster.
Whether they took scouting seriously it would be hard to say; if so it must have been a great comfort to them to have wished upon their budding organization such an instructor and propagandist as the diminutive genius whom they were now about to meet. Whatever material they had among them for progress in the scouting field, they gave every indication of possessing that quality of unholy mirth which distinguished the notorious Silver Foxes. Perhaps their silver was not quite so bright, but they gave promise.
"Hey, where are you going with the apple tree?" one of them called from the nearest canoe. "What are you trying to do? Swipe a chunk of property? That's a part of North Bridgeboro you've got there."
"Why didn't you take the whole village?" another called.
"Hey, Roly, where are you going with the real estate?" another called.
"I knew you were too heavy for that neck of land," shouted another.
"Why didn't you take the whole orchard with you?" a third wanted to know.
"For the love of——," another ejaculated. "Look at the sign, will you! The place is discovered already!"
Pee-wee did not wait for formal introductions. "We're going to start the Combination Scouts of Bridgeboro!" he shouted. "We're going to be sea scouts and land scouts all rolled into one! We took possession and it's all right! Old Trimmer can't say that he owned an island, can he? We're going to have our pictures in Boys' Life and everything and we're going to have all the apples when they're ripe and maybe we're going to call ourselves the Crab-apple Patrol! Maybe there's treasure buried here, how do we know? And we're going to get one of those things—a saxophone or whatever you call it—to take our latitude and longitude with! We're going to be better than the Ravens and the Elks and the Silver Foxes and I know how to make apple-sauce! We're going to be a new kind of a patrol!"
"In the name of goodness, what's that, a phonograph?" one of the approaching canoeists called.
"That's the discoverer," Roly called back. "He took possession of the island in the name of the King of Bridgeboro."
"I thought it was an earthquake," laughed a tall boy who was stepping ashore.
"Oh, we have those too," laughed Roly; "all the latest improvements. That's Pee-wee; he's perfectly harmless, step right ashore, you're all welcome."
"You're stepping into the seventeenth century," Pee-wee shouted, descending precipitately out of the tree.
"The seventeenth century must have been very wet," said the tall boy as he lifted one foot out of the water only to plunge the other into the ragged, muddy edge of the island, in his efforts to get on shore. It was very funny to see him wallow In the water, seeking foothold on the submerged tentacles of root, ever slipping, and always with the soberest look on his face. "This must be the back entrance," he said. "Where are we supposed to park?"
This tall boy, who turned out to be a sort of patrol leader and scoutmaster in one, had a kind of whimsical look of inquiry on his face which was his permanent expression, and which was made the more humorous by red hair which he wore decidedly pompadour. There was that in his look which indicated his taking everything as he found it, his attitude being always quietly humorous and never surprised.
His demeanor, in whatever adventure befell, seemed always that of an amiable victim placing himself at the mercy of his enterprising comrades and going through every kind of outlandish escapade and adventure with a ludicrously sober look on his funny face. To him everything that happened seemed part of the game of life and he appeared never in the least astonished at anything.
To see him soberly going through with some adventure which the sprightly genius of his associates had conceived was as good as a circus. Naturally such a fellow was called "old" and they called him Old Rip and Good Old Rip and Doctor Rip and Professor Rip. His name was Townsend Ripley.
Townsend began at the very beginning to take the irrepressible ex-Raven very soberly indeed, and the more preposterous Pee-wee's schemes the more in favor of them Townsend seemed to be. No doubt he got a great deal of amusement out of Pee-wee. But Pee-wee never knew it.
It was quite characteristic of Townsend Ripley that he did not ask Roly Poly anything about his extraordinary adventure. Amid the chorus of exclamations and inquiries he preserved a quiet, whimsical demeanor, glancing about as if rather interested in this desert island. There it was, and that was enough for him.
"If this island is going to keep moving you'll have to put a license plate on it, Roly," he drawled. "First thing you know you'll have the inland waterway inspectors after you. You're blocking up the channel too. Why didn't you drift down as far as Southbridge where the taxes aren't so high?"
"I was—I was thinking about it," Pee-wee suddenly burst forth like a cyclone, "and there are a lot of things we can do—I've got a lot of ideas—there are seven things and we can do any one of them!"
"Why not do them all?" Ripley asked.
"That's just what I say," Pee-wee shouted.
"Or we can each do a different thing," Ripley suggested. "There are just seven of us. Anything suits me."
"Do you want to know how I discovered it?" Pee-wee said excitedly.
"No, as long as we know it's discovered, that's enough," said Ripley.
"I discovered it, then he discovered me," said Pee-wee, "but I'm the discoverer because it wasn't an island when he got on it, see. Anyway, that man can't take it, can he? So will you start a patent combination patrol? And I vote for you to be the leader!"
"Let's see if we can't start the island," suggested Ripley.
"We don't want to start a Bridgeboro patrol and then find that we're in Southbridge!" said one of the boys whom the others called Nuts.
"Oh, I don't see why not," drawled Townsend; "trouble is," he added, glancing casually about, "we can't go on any hikes. If we start skirting the coast we'll get dizzy."
"I know what we can do," said Pee-wee, "because, gee whiz, we've got to have exercise, that's one sure thing. If we can make the island go round why then we can keep walking like a—like a—you know—like a horse on a treadmill—hey? And we won't get dizzy at all, because it'll be the island that goes round, see?"
"That's a very good suggestion," said Townsend, "but suppose on one of our long hikes we want to stop and camp. As soon as we stop hiking we'll start going round backward with the island."
"We should worry," said Pee-wee.
"Oh, we're not going to worry," said Townsend.
"You said it," vociferated Pee-wee. "Do you know why I like you? Because you're—you know—you're kind of—sort of——"
"Absolutely," said Townsend. "You read me like a book."
"This is better than books," said Pee-wee, "because this is a kind of a desert island and a ship, isn't it? So will you all stay here till I get back, because I'm going to get my tent and some eats and a lot of stuff for camping and then we'll start our patrol."
"I can't say that we'll stay here," said Townsend, "but we'll stick to the island. I have a hunch that this island is going to put one over on us. If we're not here when you get back you'd better advertise in the 'Lost and Found' column of the Bridgeboro paper, 'Lost, one desert island. Finder will be suitably rewarded upon returning same to the patent adjustable scouts——'"
"Not adjustable—combination," Pee-wee corrected. "Do you like roasted potatoes? I know how to roast them. And I'll get some bacon, too; shall I?"
"Suppose you should be captured by your parents while you're on the mainland," Townsend inquired.
"Then I'll send you a smoke signal," Pee-wee said, "and you can come and talk to my mother, because she'll be sure to listen to you because, anyway, you've got a lot of sense."
"And several of us will canoe up to North Bridgeboro and get some stuff and tell our folks and we'll be back in an hour because the tide's starting to run up," said a boy they called Billy.
"If you have any trouble with the folks just give me a smoke signal and I'll canoe up," drawled Townsend.
"Good old Rip," chorused half a dozen voices.
The boy they called Billy turned to Pee-wee and whispered, "Don't worry about your folks. Old Rip makes a specialty of parents; they all eat out of his hands, fathers especially. As soon as they see him they surrender."
"I make a specialty of cooks," Pee-wee said. "Our cook gives me everything I want. And anyway we couldn't starve because scouts can't starve; they can eat roots and herbs and things; I'll show you. Do you like chocolate marshmallows? Even scouts can eat moss to keep from starving. And they can't get lost either—I'll show you how."
Pee-wee decided to take one of the boys with him to prove to his mother that the island was inhabited, and two other boys started back up the river in the other canoe. This left Townsend with two companions on the island. He sat against the trunk of the tree, knees drawn up, philosophically scanning the shore and occasionally giving an expectant glance up the river for smoke signals. He seemed resigned to a quiet expectancy that he would be summoned to intercede in one quarter or another. He looked very whimsical and funny.
"I wonder if you have to crank this island or whether it has a self-starter," he drawled in his amusing way. "If they don't get back by one or so, we'll have to make some root sandwiches. What do you say, Charlie!"
THE DISCOVERER RETURNS
In about an hour and a half the two boys from up the river returned with provisions.
"Any news from the discoverer?" they asked.
"I think he's being held as a hostage by the cook," said Townsend. "Shall we land and lay waste to his home?"
"Oh, I think we can safely leave everything to him," said Billy. "What do you think of the discoverer, anyway?"
"I'm for the discoverer first, last and always," said Townsend. "He has only to lead and I'll follow. Now that we've met him I feel that life without the discoverer would not be worth living. I'm glad that next week is Easter vacation, because we couldn't think of school and the discoverer at the same time. He's more than a scout, he's an institution.
"Do you know, Charlie, I think we're moving? We were almost opposite that old railroad car a few minutes ago. Either Bridgeboro is going down or we're going up. Do you feel the climate changing? You don't suppose this island is going to go up the river again and join old Trimmer's orchard, do you?"
"Maybe it's homesick," said a boy they called Brownie.
"I hope the discoverer will discover it," said Billy.
"We'd better scatter something in our trail," said Townsend soberly, "so that he can follow. I think that's the regulation thing for scouts to do, isn't it?"
He had been whittling a stick and now with a sober look he began throwing the chips into the water as if to indicate the path of the departing island. "That's what you call blazing a trail," he said; "if he's a scout he can follow."
The little island was now moving slowly upstream by the incoming tide. It caught on the flats, performed a slow pirouette like some drowsy toe-dancer or exhausted merry-go-round, then extricated itself and floated majestically in the channel till the little apple tree became involved with the foliage along shore.
"Do you know this seems like a very funny kind of an island to me?" Townsend Ripley drawled. "I wonder what makes it hold together? It ought to disintegrate."
"Dis what?" asked Billy.
"Disintegrate—that's Latin for falling to pieces."
"Maybe the roots hold it together," said Roland.
"It ought to dissolve," said Townsend. "This land doesn't seem to be soluble in water. The coast all around ought to wash away. There is something mysterious here. This island is as solid as a pancake; I don't understand it. By all the rules of the game there shouldn't be anything left here but the tree by this evening. There doesn't seem to be any process of erosion."
"What will we do If the island washes away from under us?" asked the boy they called Brownie. "The tree'll fall over sideways, won't it? I don't want to camp on an island that keeps getting smaller all the time. It's bad enough to have a tent shrink after a rain, but an island!"
"I think this island is warranted not to shrink," said Townsend.
"Warranted nothing," said Billy; "look how muddy the water is all around it. It'll be about as big as a fifty cent piece by midnight. The river is eating it all away."
"Speaking of eating," said Townsend, "here comes the discoverer."
The discoverer and his companion were indeed approaching and apparently they had sacked the town of Bridgeboro. Their gallant barque labored under a veritable mountain of miscellaneous paraphernalia and out of the pile projected a long bar with a device on the end of it which glinted red and green in the sunshine.
"It looks like a weather-vane," said Billy.
"There's something printed on it," said Roly.
"It says STOP," said the boy they called Nuts.
"It says GO" said the boy they called Brownie.
"I think," said Townsend, scrutinizing the approaching transport in his funny way, "I think, I think, it's a traffic sign. You don't see any automobiles in the canoe, do you?"
"There's something sticking out on the left side," said Billy; "I think it's a Ford. I hope the island isn't going to be overrun by motorists."
"It's not a Ford, it's a dishpan," said Brownie.
"They're the same thing," said Townsend. "What is that on the duffel bag—a license plate?"
Suddenly the voice of the discoverer floated across the expanse of sun-flickered water. "We're going to have hunter's stew for supper and I'm going to make it and my mother says I can stay all through Easter vacation and I got a lot of things out of our attic. Do you like bananas? I've got a whole bunch and I've got a lot of new ideas—dandy ones! I know how to fry them! I know how to slice them and fry them!"
"I'd like to try some fried ideas," said Townsend. "I don't think I ever ate them sliced before."
It may be said that Pee-wee's ideas, whether fried or baked or boiled or roasted, were usually underdone and required to be put back into the oven.
Be that as it may, he soon proceeded to unload these, as well as the interesting junk which he had gathered, the most surprising object of which was the dilapidated revolving traffic sign lately discarded by the Bridgeboro police department in favor of a lighthouse or silent cop, so called.
This acquisition was the pride of Pee-wee's life; its heavy metal stand had long since gone the way of all junk and it could not stand unsupported. As Pee-wee plunged it heroically in the earth and stood holding it with one hand he looked not unlike Columbus planting the flaunting emblem of Ferdinand and Isabella on the shore of San Salvador, except that this tableau of the well known historical episode was somewhat marred by the fact of his holding a half eaten banana in his other hand. But his new friends stared with all the amazement shown by the natives upon the landing of that other great discoverer. Only a specific inventory can do justice to the provisions and furniture which Pee-wee brought.
One revolving police traffic sign One large phonograph horn One dishpan full of crullers (taken in a masterly assault upon the Harris pantry) One tent One duffel bag with cooking set Part of a vacuum cleaner One scout belt axe One Thanksgiving horn One automobile siren horn. One lantern Two long clothesline supporters A towel-rack that opened like a fan A skein of clothesline A small kitchen-range shovel Two boxes filled with canned goods One box filled with loose edibles One ice cream freezer
"Didn't you bring a cow?" Townsend asked. "We can never make ice cream without cream."
"We're in reach of the mainland, aren't we?" Pee-wee retorted thunderously. "It isn't as if we were going out of sight of land; gee whiz, then I'd have brought quite a lot of stuff."
"Oh, I see," said Townsend.
"I just picked up a few odds and ends," Pee-wee explained. "I'm going to make a couple of more trips to-morrow."
"If you happen to think of it bring a lawnmower," said Townsend; "they come in handy. And a few life preservers if you happen to have any, in case the island goes to pieces."
"How can it go to pieces?" Pee-wee demanded. "Islands don't go to pieces, do they? Australia is an island, isn't it? It's just where it always was, isn't it? You're crazy! All we need is one more scout and I know one by the name of Keekie Joe, and I'm going to try to get him and then we'll be a full patrol and I decided to name it the Alligators, because they belong on land and water both and we're sea scouts on the land kind of, so maybe I'll decide to name it the Turtles, maybe."
"Discoverer," said Townsend, "we're with you whatever you do, but there is a mystery about this island which I would like to fathom before we organize——"
"I fathomed lots of mysteries," shouted Pee-wee.
"I don't know whether you know what erosion means——"
"Sure I know what it means," said Pee-wee; "it means getting rusty, kind of."
"It means land being washed away by water. If you put a piece of land in the water, the water will dissolve it and it won't take long either. It isn't like an island that has always been where it is—a kind of hill sticking up out of the water. This is just a piece of land and the roots of this little tree won't hold it together long.
"The question is, should we go hunting for new members under those conditions? Pretty soon we'll have a full patrol and no island under us; we'll be in the water. That's perfectly agreeable to me and all the rest of us. But does Keekie Joe know how to swim? We really have no grounds for forming a patrol. See?"
"Do you call that an argument?" Pee-wee thundered. "It shows how much you know about geography because look at an ice cream soda! Does that corrode? Let's hear you answer that? Or erode or whatever you call it. A chunk of ice cream floats in the soda, doesn't it? Maybe after a while it melts, but this land isn't ice cream, is it?
"That shows how much you know about logic. This island has been here ever since early this morning, hasn't it? And it's just as big as it was, isn't it? An island is an island and the water won't melt it unless it's hot—like a lump of sugar in a cup of coffee. You've got to stir it up to melt it. Is North America corroding? Or Coney Island? Is this island any smaller than it was?"
"No, it isn't, and that's the funny part," said Townsend. "We've explored the coast but we haven't explored the depths. Let's have that little shovel a minute, will you?"
The ice cream soda argument was not a good one at all, for no lump of ice cream ever remained long intact where Pee-wee was. Whether it melted or not, it disappeared. And why this freakish little island did not rapidly dissolve was a mystery.
By all the laws it should have melted away, leaving the deserted tree to topple over and form a new obstruction to boating. But there it was floating more easily as the tide rose, with apparently no intention of allowing itself to be absorbed by the surrounding waters. It is true that a belt of muddy water bordered its wild and forbidding coast and that its shore line was of a consistency suitable for the making of mud pies, but its body seemed as solid and resistant as a rock.
Pee-wee always claimed that it was he and he alone who discovered the mysterious secret of Merry-go-round Island; he and he alone who penetrated its unknown depths. In this bold exploration a courageous sardine sandwich played an important part and out of sheer gratitude Pee-wee, from that time forward, was ever partial to sardine sandwiches, regarding them with tender and grateful affection.
He was standing near the apple tree holding the traffic sign like a pilgrim's banner beside him and, as has been told, eating a banana with the other hand. That fact is well established. Little he thought that when Roly Poly, delving into a paper bag that was in a grocery box, handed him a sardine sandwich, it would mark an epoch in scout history.
In order to accept the proffered refreshment, Pee-wee was compelled either to relinquish the traffic sign or the banana. One moment of frantic consideration held him, then in a burst of inspiration he plunged the metal standard deep into the ground, and took the sardine sandwich in his free hand. The printed cross-piece on the traffic sign joggled around so that just as he plunged his mouth into the sandwich the word GO made an appropriate announcement to his comrades. It is hard to say what might have happened if Townsend Ripley had not turned the sign so that it said STOP just as Pee-wee consumed the last mouthful.
"Isstrucsmlikewood," ejaculated Pee-wee, consuming the last mouthful. "Issoundlkbo—boards!"
Billy was quick to raise the bar of the traffic sign and plunge it down again. It was certainly no tentacle of root that the probing bar struck, but something hard, yet ever so slightly yielding, something which gave forth a hollow sound.
It was easy to explore America after Columbus had shown the way and it was a simple matter now for Townsend, with the little shovel, to dig a hole three or four feet deep about the traffic sign. The boys all kneeled about, peering in as if buried treasure were there, until an area of muddy wood was revealed. Roly Poly knocked it with a rock and the noise convinced them that the wood was of considerable area and that probably nothing was beneath it.
"Well—what—do—you—know—about—that?" Billy asked incredulously.
"Jab it down somewhere else," said Brownie.
Pee-wee moved the metal rod a yard or so distant and plunged it in the ground again. There was the same hollow sound. For a moment they all sat spellbound, mystified. Then, as if seized by a sudden thought, Brownie hurried to the edge of the little island, exploring with his hands. He lifted up some grassy soil that drooped and hung in the water, and tore it away. As he did so there was revealed a ridge of heavy wood over which it had hung. By the same process he exposed a yard or two of this black mud-covered edge.
"Well—I'll—be—jiggered!" said Billy.
"It's a scow or something!" said Brownie, almost too astonished to speak.
"The island seems to overlap it sort of like a pie-crust," drawled Townsend.
"The scow is the undercrust!" shouted Pee-wee, delighted with this comparison to his favorite edible. "We'll call it Apple-pie Island and it can't corrode or erode or whatever you call it, either, because it's boxed in!"
That indeed seemed to be the way of it. Apparently the island reposed comfortably in and over the edges of a huge, shallow box of heavy timbers which had received it with kindly hospitality when it broke away and toppled over into the water. As we know, the river had eaten away the land under the little balcony peninsula, and the scow, or whatever it was, must have drifted or been moored underneath the earthy projection.
"Maybe it belonged to that big dredge that was working up here," said Pee-wee, "Anyway it's lucky for us, hey? Because now our island has a good foundation and it can't dis—what d'you call it."
"Only it complicates the question of ownership," said Townsend, apparently not in the least astonished or excited. "Here is a piece of land belonging to old Trimmer on a scow or something or other belonging to a dredging company or somebody or other and claimed by the boy scouts by right of discovery."
"Old Trimmer owned the land," Pee-wee fairly yelled, "but now the land isn't there any more and now it's an island so he doesn't own it because he's got a deed and it doesn't say island on the deed! Gee whiz, anybody knows that."
"But suppose the owner of the scow wants his property," Townsend said.
"Let him come and get it," Pee-wee shouted. "If we get a deed for this island the scow is covered by the deed!"
"You mean it's covered by the island," Brownie said.
"Well, we seem to be standing still now, anyway," said Townsend; "it's a relief to know that when we wake up to-morrow morning we won't be floating in the water. Who's got a match? Let's start a fire and begin moving toward the hunter's stew."
"We don't need matches," Pee-wee said with a condescending sneer. "Do you think scouts use matches? They light fires by rubbing sticks. Matches are civilized."
Whereupon Pee-wee gave a demonstration of not getting a light by the approved old Indian fashion of rubbing sticks and striking sparks from stones and so on.
"Here comes a man down the river in a motorboat," said Nuts; "turn the stop sign that way and we'll ask him for a match."
Pee-wee, somewhat subdued by his failure, confronted the approaching boat with the red panel which said STOP, and held his hand up like a traffic officer.
But there was no need of requiring the approaching voyager to pause. For he had every intention of pausing. Neither would there have been any use of asking him for a match. For he never gave away matches.
Old Trimmer never gave away anything. He would not even give away a secret, he was so stingy. To get a match from old Trimmer you would have had to give him chloroform. It was said that he would not look at his watch to see what time it was for fear of wearing it out, and that he looked over the top of his spectacles to save the lenses. At all events he was so economical that he seldom wasted any words, and the words that he did waste were not worth saving; they were not very nice words.
Old Trimmer chugged up to the edge of the island in the shabbiest, leakiest little motor dory on the river, and grasped a little tuft of greensward to keep his boat from drifting.
"Well, now, what's all this?" he began. "What you youngsters been doin' up the river, eh?"
"This used to be your land before it was an island," said Pee-wee diplomatically. "I bet you'll say it's funny how it used to be your apple tree and everything. But it broke away and kind of fell down and now it's an island and we discovered it. It can't—one thing—it can't ever be a peninsula again, that's sure. Islands, they're discovered and then you own them, that's the way it is. Findings is keepings with islands."
"Is that so?" said old Trimmer, half-interested and examining what might be called the underpinning of the island with keen preoccupation.
"Well, you'll just clear off'n this here property double quick. Pile in here and I'll set you ashore."
"Don't you go," urged Pee-wee; "we've got a right here; we're going to camp on this island."
"Sure we are," said Roly Poly.
"And you can't make us get off, either, because it isn't on your land."
Old Trimmer wasted no words. "Pile in here, all of you," he said, indicating the boat, "or I'll have yer all up fer trespassin'."
"Do you own this old scow or whatever it is underneath us?" Townsend asked quietly.
"Look a'here, young feller, no talkin' back," said old Trimmer testily; "come along, step lively. I'm going to tow this whole business back up to where it belongs. Now d'ye want me ter set yer ashore or not?"
"Not," said Roly Poly.
"I don't think we have anything to say about it, Mr. Trimmer," said Townsend. "The land that used to be part of your field seems to be on a scow or something or other and we're on the land that's on the scow. We're here because we're here——"
"Let's hear you answer that argument!" shouted Pee-wee in a voice of thunder. "This is a river, isn't it? Do you deny that? It's an inward waterway—I mean inland—and it belongs to the government and this scow or whatever it is, is on it and something that used to be a peninsula but isn't any more is on the scow and we're on the thing that used to be a peninsula——"
"In the shade of the young apple tree," said Townsend.
"That's just what I was going to say," said Pee-wee, "and you can't put us off this land because if that's trespassing then the land is trespassing too—it's trespassing on the scow—so we won't get off the land till you take the land off the scow and put it back where it belongs and then we'll get off it because, gee whiz, scouts have no right to trespass." He paused, not for lack of arguments but for lack of breath.
"So that's the way it is, is it?" said old Trimmer darkly. "Well, we'll see."
"Sure we'll see," said Pee-wee. "That shows how much you know about geography and international law and all those things. Suppose Cape Cod should break off and float away. Would it belong to New Hampshire any more—I mean Connecticut—I mean Massachusetts? Gee whiz, we're going to stay right here because we're on a public waterway and anyway you don't own the scow that this land is on, do you?"
There was, of course, no answer to this fine analysis of the legal points involved.
"That there scow was under my land," said old Trimmer.
"It was in the river and it wasn't on anybody's land as I understand it," said Townsend in his funny way. "Your land trespassed on the scow——"
"Sure it did!" interrupted Pee-wee. "It really had no right to do that, Mr. Trimmer, unless you can show that you own the scow. As I understand it this is a kind of a legal sandwich. The land that used to be a part of your field is between the scow and us——"
"Sure it is!" vociferated Pee-wee, caught by the idea of a sandwich so huge and picturesque. "We're kind of like one of the slices of breads and the scow is the other slice. It's thick and dark like rye bread," he added to make the picture more graphic.
"It's a kind of a legal sandwich," said Townsend, sitting back against the tree with his knees drawn up and talking with a calmness and seriousness which aroused the wrath of old Trimmer. "It's a kind of an interesting situation. We have as much right on the scow as the land has, as I see it——"
"Sure, you learn that in the third grade!" shouted Pee-wee. "That's logic."
"Really, the best thing to do," drawled Townsend, "would be to remove the land, which would let us down onto the scow and that would let you out of the difficulty. We'd be answerable to the owner of the scow."
"It belonged to the big dredge," Pee-wee said excitedly. "I knew all the men on that dredge; I used to hang out on that dredge; those men were all friends of mine. We wouldn't be trespassing except your land is in the way."
"If you want us to shovel the land out of here we'll do it," suggested Roly Poly.
"Then the tree'll fall over," said Brownie.
"Gee whiz," shouted Pee-wee, "it'll serve the tree right because all the time fellers are being accused of trespassing in apple trees and now you can see for yourself that apple trees are just as bad. They trespass on scows."
"We could have this tree fined ten dollars," said Billy, "if we wanted to report it to the dredging company in New York."
"Or it would have to go to jail for thirty days," yelled Pee-wee.
"I don't see what we're going to do, Mr. Trimmer," said Townsend.
"I know what we're going to do," said Pee-wee; "we're going to do a lot of things. We're natives of this island."
"We don't recognize this land," said Townsend; "we consider it beneath us."
"Sure it's beneath us!" shouted Pee-wee.
"It simply happens to trespass on the scow first," said Townsend. "I think we'll stand on our rights."
"Well, yer ain't goin' ter stand on my property, yer ain't!" old Trimmer bellowed, his wrath rising. Townsend's calmness seemed to goad him to a perfect frenzy.
"Well, then," said Townsend, "the only thing for us to do is to shovel out a space and camp on that. Then our feet will be on the scow——"
"We'll be on friendly territory," shouted Pee-wee. "Your land can camp here with us if it wants to."
"Or you can take it away, just as you please," said Townsend. "Only we warn you not to take any liberties with this scow. We're personally acquainted with Mr. Steam of the Steam Dredging Company and we're going to charter this scow, now that we're on it. We can get another desert island to put on it if necessary."
"Do you see this traffic sign?" Pee-wee yelled at the top of his voice. He stood like some conquering hero, holding the martial stop sign with one hand. "The bottom of this bar is planted on the scow. Do you hear the noise it makes when I bump it up and down? It goes right through this land. We take possession of this scow in the name of the new Alligator Patrol or maybe it'll be the Turtles, we don't know yet. We plant our banner on the—the——"