Keekie Joe liked Townsend and felt at home with him. He admired and trusted him because in the beginning Townsend made a point of calling the fellows blokes and guys and talking about “dem t’ings.”
“If yez want a guy ter lay keekie, I’ll do it fer yez,” Keekie Joe said.
“If we see any cops coming,” said Townsend, “we’ll turn the traffic sign on them and make them stop.”
On Sunday morning, Townsend rowed ashore with Keekie Joe and invaded the tenement in Barrel Alley. He took a brand new package of cigarettes to Mr. Keekie Joe, Senior, and Keekie Joe, Junior, was struck dumb with awe at the familiar and persuasive way in which Townsend talked to his parent. The result of the interview was that Keekie Joe returned to the island on a week’s furlough from his squalid home. The Barrel Alley gang, which was mobilized in front of Billy Gilson’s tire repair shop, made catcalls at the stranger as the pair passed along and when they were some yards distant, several of them summoned Keekie Joe to their loitering conference.
“Hey, Keekie, come ’ere, I want ter tell yer sup’m,” one called.
Keekie Joe hesitated and turned. It was a crucial moment in the history of the new patrol.
“Come on back, Keekie,” another shouted.
Then it was that Slats Corbett, imperial head of the gang, did a good turn for the scouting movement. He picked up a half dry sponge which was lying in an auto wash pail and hurled it at Townsend Ripley. Without even turning, Townsend raised his hand, caught it, dipped it in the mud at his feet, and walking briskly back, smeared the face and head of the big ungainly bully, leaving him furious and dripping. Keekie Joe trembled at this rash exploit of his new friend and waited in fearful suspense for the sequel. It was not long in coming. With a roar of obscene invectives, Slats Corbett rushed upon the smiling, slim, quiet stranger, and then in the space of two seconds, there was Slats Corbett lying flat in the mud. In a kind of trance Keekie Joe heard a brisk, pleasant voice.
“Any of the rest of you want any? All right, come along, Joe.”
And that really was the ceremony that made Keekie Joe a scout. It is true that they had a kind of formal initiation under the apple tree on Merry-go-round Island and gave him a badge and had him take the oath and so on and so on. And had him hold up his hand—you know how. But it was not when his hand went up that he became a scout. It was when Slats Corbett went down. That was the clincher.
SETTLED AT LAST
And now the wandering career of Merry-go-round Island seemed at last to have ended and it roamed no more over the face of the waters. On the contrary, it settled down to a life of respectable retirement on Waring’s reef.