Peter groped for the little box of safety matches which always lay near the lamp. These were the chief ornaments of his little room, the lamp and the safety matches. He held a match close over page two hundred and eighty-four while he divided his gaze between this and the next lingering visitation of that strange, long, shadowy thing over the graveyard. He struck match after match, as each blew out. Yes, that was what three short flashes meant—S. And one long flash meant T.
Suppose—suppose there should be three long appearances now? That would be O. Were these signs, expressed in ghostly strangeness, just the figments of Peter’s excited imagination? Just the Morse Code haunting him and coloring his fancy? He put his finger on the black symbol on the page and waited.
—Two—three—then a pause.
His finger held upon the page trembled as he lighted another match and still another and moved his finger to another printed symbol on the page. And the long, dusty column over beyond the graveyard, came and went, now for a second, now for several, now for several again, then for one short second.
“STOP!” said Peter, his voice shaking as if indeed some ghostly spectre were upon him. Somebody, somebody was talking to him! Some scout, in real khaki attire, out in the great world?
Peter did not know where to place his waiting finger next. A mighty hand had been raised in the black, solemn night, and had said Stop. Had sprawled it across the open page of the heaven. Peter waited, as one waits for a spirit to give some sign. He kept his eyes riveted upon the general service code, lighting match after match and throwing them on the floor as the fickle things went out. Some day, some day, maybe, Peter would have a real flashlight with a switch button, a flashlight of shiny nickel that he could polish, such a flashlight as he had seen a picture of in Boy’s Life. A flashlight that would not blow out. Sometime he would—maybe....
Out of the solemn darkness, someone, somewhere, had called to Peter Piper of Piper’s Crossroads; had stolen like a silent ghost to his little window and bidden him watch.
Far away that arresting voice may have been, away off in the big world, and none could say how far or near, or where or how it spoke, calling in the endless wilderness of night. But it spoke to Peter Piper, of Piper’s Crossroads, to Peter Piper, pioneer scout.
And Peter Piper, with the aid of the only scout companion that he had, read it and was prepared, as it is the way of a scout to be.
He did not dare to hope that he was being drawn into the actual circle of scouting; he would not know how to act among those natty strangers. Wonderful as they were, with their pathfinding and all that, they could hardly penetrate to his humble, sequestered little home. Peter Piper of Piper’s Crossroads was not going to allow himself to dream any extravagantly impossible dreams. The nickel flashlight and a correspondence with some unknown “brother,” that was as far as his hopes carried.