“Yes, and I’ll pin the merit badge over your mouth if you don’t keep still,” he heard a hearty voice say. “Sure, wintergreen is good to eat! Go and eat some poison ivy for all I care. Do you think I’m going to be passing out merit badges for helping me to find my own car?”
“I wonder where they went?”
“I should worry where they went; I’m thankful we found the car. Maybe they’ve gone to join The Bandit of Harrowing Highway; he’ll have pistols enough to go around, anyway; seventy was it?”
“And a couple of blackjacks.”
“Well, we’ve got him beaten for a romance of the road. Let’s go in this house and see if we can scare up some gasoline. Jim, you and I ought to go into the movies—we’d have a six reeler called The Kids of Kidder Lake or Fido of Frying-pan Island. How’s that strike you? Most of those kids don’t need any pistols, they can kill time without them. We’ve got some dead ones over there, Jim, only they haven’t got sense enough to lie down. What do you bet we don’t get some gas in this house? Well, here goes for a knock on the door by Ned the Nabber,—one pistol.”
Pee-wee held his breath, listening. What could this mean? Seventy pistols? Blackjacks? His old friend, The Bandit of Harrowing Highway? Dead ones? Was he indeed in the spell of some horrible nightmare? What on earth could this mean?
In a kind of trance he heard a knocking on the door and a lot of hearty, clamoring, bantering voices. They did not seem at all like robbers and cut-throats. They were not stealthy—a couple of million miles from it. Pee-wee rubbed his glistening eyes with that old cap that he held and blinked to make sure he was awake.
FACE TO FACE
Still in a daze, Pee-wee saw the old man step to the door; he heard a hearty, good-humored voice asking about gasoline. “If you could just put us on the track of some,” the voice said; “we’re good at tracking.”
Tracking! Pee-wee’s eyes opened. Tracking?
“Well, could we use your ’phone, then?” he heard.
The next thing Pee-wee knew, half a dozen boys and young men spilled into the room. All but one of them, and that was Jim Burton, were in scout attire. Pee-wee stood gaping at them as if they had dropped from the clouds.
Whatever their wee hour call meant they seemed all to be in high good-humor and amused at their own adventure. One of them, a scoutmaster as Pee-wee knew, was particularly offhand and jovial and seemed to fill the room with his breezy talk. Peter Piper stared like one transfixed; they were scouts, the kind he had read about, the kind that were on the cover of the handbook! He backed into a corner so as not to get in their way....