Pee-wee went over and stood between the knees of Scoutmaster Ned. “He’s mine, Bill,” said Ned to his fellow scoutmaster, “I saw him first.”
Meanwhile you should have seen the face of Justice of the Peace Fee. He sat at his desk, with his long legs projecting through the middle, a cigar screwed away over into the corner of his mouth, contemplating Pee-wee with a shrewd, amused twinkle. Not a word did he say as Scoutmaster Ned asked questions of the Raven’s mascot, while the others listened and laughed.
But there was one there who smiled almost fearfully, as if doubting his privilege of mirth in that gay, strange company. He smiled, not as one of them, but in silent awe, and did not dare to laugh aloud. He hoped that they would not notice him and tell him to go home. He had dreamed of some day seeing such wondrous boys as these, and here they were before him, all about him, in their natty khaki, self-possessed, unabashed, merry, free. Was not that enough for Peter Piper of Piper’s Crossroads?
Yes, that was enough, more than he had ever expected. It was like the scene he had “pretended” out in the little barn when he had presented himself with the fancied signalling badge.
Stealthily his hand moved to his ticking shirt and removed the campaign button. For there before him was a boy with a real, a real, signalling badge. His eyes were riveted upon that badge; he could not take them from it. Suppose someone should ask him about the button; why he was wearing it now that Harding and Coolidge were in office? He would blush, he could not tell them.
He hoped that they would not notice him for he knew he could not talk to them, that his voice would shake and that he would go to pieces. Now that he saw them, joyous, uproarious, bantering, wearing badges on their sleeves, he realized that what he had done was nothing at all. He heard Scoutmaster Ned humorously belittling the exploits of his own heroes. No, Peter Piper would not step rashly into that bantering throng with that one exploit of his own.
So he stood in the bay window, half concealed by the old-fashioned melodeon, and watched them. Just gazed at them....
And when they all crowded out he lingered behind and whispered to the music-master of the milk cans, “Don’t tell them, Ham; please don’t tell them anything—about me.”
And so the party made their way along the dark road and Peter followed and heard the flattering comments and fraternal plans involving the little hero from Bridgeboro. Evidently they were going to keep Scout Harris with them and have him patented, from what Peter overheard.
When they came to Peter’s little home, Scoutmaster Ned discovered and spoke to him while Pee-wee was making an enthusiastic pronouncement about Jim Burton’s Packard car.