Having no knowledge of these things he moved his hand among them cautiously, fearful lest some inadvertent touch might cause the car to go careering into the board wall. He bent his head close to the instrument board in search of printed words indicating the purpose of the various buttons, but the darkness was too dense for him to see anything but the shiny nickel. At the same time his wandering foot, conducting an exploration of its own, came against a little knob.
Pee-wee never knew precisely what he did to cause the startling occurrence which followed. There were two switch buttons, side by side, and in one a small key had been left. Evidently he decided that this was the lighting switch. He was just able to decipher the word IGNITION above it. But alas, the word ignition means SPARK on an auto.
Whether he purposely, in curiosity, stepped on the button in the floor he never knew. In nine cases out of ten it would have required more effort to start the Hunkajunk touring model. But this was the tenth case. In a frantic effort to stop the power, or perhaps in groping with his hand, he pulled down the spark lever, and the six cylinder brute of an engine awoke to life!
Out of the exhaust pipe in back poured the fatal volume of gaseous smoke which spells death, horrible and suffocating, when locked and barred doors and windowless walls enclose the wretched, gasping victim as in a tomb.
A RACE WITH DEATH
In close confinement it is all over in a minute in these cases. The victim is poisoned and suffocated like a rat in a hole. Surprising as it may seem, this deadly poison works faster than its victim can act. And with darkness for its ally the only hope lies in presence of mind and quick action.
Pee-wee Harris was a scout. Laugh at him and make fun of him as you will, he was a scout. He was at once the littlest scout and the biggest scout that ever scouting had known. He boasted and bungled, but out of his bungling came triumph. He fell, oh such falls as he fell! But he always landed right side up. He could save the world with a blunder. And then boast of the blunder.
He was not a motorist, he was a scout. Wrong or right (and he was usually wrong), he was a scout. He was a scout with something left over. Like a flash of lightning he jumped into the car and shut off the switch, but the imprisoned air was already heavy with the deadly fumes and his head swam. Shutting off the switch would not save him; nothing would save him unless his mind and body acted together with lightning swiftness.
Say that he made a “bull” of it in starting the engine, and you are welcome to say that of him. But after that the spirit and training of the scout possessed him. You, with all respect to you, would have died a frightful death in that black prison.
Pee-wee Harris, scout, tore his handkerchief from around his cut finger, unscrewed the cap of the radiator, dipped his handkerchief into the hole, bit off two small pieces of the warm, dripping cloth, and stuffed them into his ears. The wet handkerchief he stuffed into his mouth. And so Scout Harris gained a few precious moments, only a few, in which to make a desperate effort to find a way out!