“Are you going to do as I tell you?”
“I’m a scout and I’m not going to get out till you put me out, so there.”
Slowly the big car moved up the rocky hill and around the bend and the finding light which had been focused on the church shifted its area of distant brightness until Mr. Swiper turned it off just as the two big headlights threw their glare along the straight level road.
[Illustration: “THE ROAD IS CLOSED,” SAID PETER.]
The small figure in the shabby gray sweater and tough looking cap was nervous and apprehensive and angry with a righteous anger. But he did not tremble like the poor little lonely figure waiting in the darkness with eyes fixed upon those two dazzling, glaring eyes. Five-o-seven-nine-two. There it is, Peter; read it again as the car draws nearer to make sure. Yes, that is a five. Five-o-seven-nine-two. Don’t you see the little gilt eagle on the radiator? He trembled, oh how he trembled.
“Looker here, you kid,” said the driver to the huddled up figure beside him; “I once croaked a boy scout that didn’t do what I told him. Do you see? I croaked him. No scout kid can put anything over on me; I won’t have any kids interfering with my plans—”
Oh yes you will, Mr. Swiper. You may have escaped from jail, the authorities of a dozen states may be after you. But just the same you are going to stop when a little trembling pioneer scout in homespun pantaloons tells you to. Look ahead, where that dim light is, Mr. Swiper, with the cropped hair. Do you see something shining there, held in a little trembling hand? That is a knife, Mr. Swiper. The trembling hand that holds that knife belongs to a soul possessed, Mr. Swiper. He is crazed with a high resolve. See how he shakes? Oh he is not thinking of you. He is thinking of the car, Mr. Swiper. He is not himself at all and he is going to slash your tires if you pass that rope, Mr. Swiper. So you see?
For it is said that opportunity knocks once at everyone’s door, Mr. Swiper. It came to you on the ruins of that old school. And it has come away down here, Mr. Swiper, and knocked on the door of Peter Piper, pioneer scout, of Piper’s Crossroads.
PETER FINDS A WAY
“What’s all this?” asked Mr. Swiper, as the car came to a stop before the rope.
With hand shaking and heart thumping, but borne up by a towering resolve, Peter took his stand beside one of the front wheels. “The—the road is—it’s closed,” he said, his voice trembling. The hand which held the knife stole below the shiny mud-guard and rested on the smooth, unyielding rubber. “The road is closed,” he repeated.
Mr. Swiper climbed down out of the car, muttering an oath. He looked apprehensively back along the road and being sure of no danger there he crossed the rope and advanced a few yards along the road to inspect it.