“What’s the use of giving you candy if we can’t be friends?” Pee-wee said. “Gee whiz, I wouldn’t care how much candy fellers threw at me; the more the merrier. They can throw mince pies at me for all I care,” he added. “If you want to be a scout I’ll show you how and we can start a patrol maybe.”
[Illustration: Keekie Joe interviews Pee-wee]
The word patrol seemed to suggest something ominous to Keekie Joe, for he glanced furtively up and down the alley, and then waved his hand reassuringly to the group in the middle of the field.
Pee-wee perceived now that the scene of the crap game had been selected with keen military wisdom, affording a safe avenue of precipitate retreat in any direction. Disaster could have resulted only from a surrounding host. Officer McMahon, the tyrant on this squalid beat, was large. But he was not large enough to surround the camp.
The crap-shooters of Barrel Alley had been surprised in every nook and corner of their neighborhood until they had hit upon the bold expedient of playing in an open lot, reposing their trust in a sentinel. It would not have been well for the sentinel to relax his vigilance.
“What I want ter join them scout kids fer?” Keekie Joe inquired. “Der yer call me a sissy?”
“Do you call the scouts sissies?” Pee-wee inquired angrily. “They have more fun than you do, that’s one sure thing. If you don’t want to join you don’t have to but you don’t have to get mad about it. Gee whiz, you’re always mad, kind of. I guess you got up out of the wrong side of the bed, that’s what I think.”
This was not true, for indeed Keekie Joe did not sleep in a bed at all; he slept on a heap of old inner tubes in Ike Levine’s tire repair shop. He was about to resent this slander from Pee-wee with a glowering look and a threat, when suddenly something happened, which precipitately terminated his performance of his official functions. His father called him from a tenement across the street, accompanying his summons with such dismal predictions of what would happen if he did not obey that the official sentinel had no choice but to desert his post.
“If I have ter come over there’n git yer,” the father said, “I’ll——”
Poor Joe glanced at his father in the window, then at the gamesters in the field. It was evident that chastisement of the severest character awaited him in any case. For a moment he had a wild notion of making a spectacular retreat along the street, crawling through a broken part of the fence beyond the range of parental vision, and resuming his duties of sentinel at another vantage point. Such a maneuver would at least postpone a reckoning with his father and enable him to be faithful to his trust. A very unworthy trust it may have been but his one thought was to be faithful to it. And there you have Keekie Joe in a nutshell . . .