Nor were they surprised to see the new habitat of their official sentinel bobbing against the wooded shore. Indeed, some tidings of Joe’s adventurous career (since he had run away to sea) had penetrated to Barrel Alley and the only thing which had prevented the alleyites from making an assault upon the island was the presence there of Townsend Ripley. Him they had come to regard with a kind of superstitious awe because he was so precipitate and decisive.
The fact that he had allowed no time for preliminary threats and profanity, rather baffled these hoodlums. He had a quaint way of cutting out all the customary boasts and menaces preceding an encounter, and going straight to the heart of the matter.
Therefore, Slats Corbett did not undertake anything in the way of a belligerent and retaliatory enterprise now. But he could not pass the sleeping campers without in some way registering his mortal enmity, so he did something which was altogether characteristic of him. He rowed very quietly along shore and untied the rope with which the little island was moored. Even this unheroic thing he did in fear and trembling, for the spirit of Townsend Ripley seemed to pervade the quiet spot. Then the trio proceeded quietly down the river in the darkness.
KEEKIE JOE, SCOUT
The first one to awake in the morning was Keekie Joe. Going to school on Monday was such an unusual thing with him that he had awakened at five o’clock, and had not been able to go to sleep again. He had a strange, nervous feeling as if he might be going to his own wedding.
The school would look strange on a Monday. Ordinarily after a week’s vacation he would have taken both Monday and Tuesday. But now, strange to say, he wanted to go to school. He wanted to do what the rest of them did. Oh, no, he was not a new boy all made over, he was just poor little Keekie Joe, but he was going to do what the rest of them did that day . . .
He now discovered, to his surprise, that the island was in the middle of the river. It had, in fact, started drifting downstream on the ebbing tide, and had caught again on Waring’s reef, the scene of its recent exploit. It would stick there for some hours now, at least, for the tide was running out.
Keekie Joe looked all about him, then stole cautiously to the tent and looked within. His friends were sleeping soundly. He withdrew from the tent and looked about again. The island was about a mile farther downstream than where it had been moored.
Looking down the river, Keekie Joe could see the boat-house, and the gilt ball on top of the flagpole shone dazzling in the early sunlight. The shores and river seemed fresh and new and clean, bathed in the growing light of the new day.
For a minute it seemed to Keekie Joe as if he were a sentinel again, “layin’ keekie” while his friends slept. In the trees along shore the birds were already chirping, a merry fish (that did not have to go to school) flopped out of the water and went splashing into the dim coolness again, from very excess of joy, as it seemed. Perhaps he had just looked out to see what kind of a day it was going to be. In the field on the farther shore from town stood several cows, like statues of contentment.