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"WHO--WHO ARE--YOU?" PEE-WEE STAMMERED Frontispiece
HANDWRITTEN NOTE 27
"The road is closed," said Peter. 109
PEE-WEE BEFORE THE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE. 130
"WE'RE NOT MINERS, WE'RE SCOUTS!" PEE-WEE SHOUTED. 202
PEE-WEE HARRIS ON THE TRAIL
THE LONE FIGURE
The night was bleak and cold. All through the melancholy, cheerless day,
the first chill of autumn had been in the air. Toward evening the clouds
had parted, showing a steel-colored sky in which the sun went down a
great red ball, tinting the foliage across the river with a glow of
crimson. A sun full of rich light but no heat.
The air was heavy with the pungent fragrance of burning leaves. The
gutters along Main Street were full of these fluttering, red memorials
of the good old summer-time.
But there were other signs that the melancholy days had come. Down at
the Bridgeboro station was a congestion of trunks and other luggage
bespeaking the end of the merry play season. And saddest of all, the
windows of the stationery stores were filled with pencil-boxes and blank
books and other horrible reminders of the opening of school.
Look where one would, these signs confronted the boys of Bridgeboro, and
there was no escaping them. Even the hardware store had straps and tin
lunch boxes now filling its windows, the same window where fishing rods
and canoe paddles had lately been displayed.
Even the man who kept the shoe store had turned traitor and gathered up
his display of sneaks and scout moccasins, and exhibited in their places
a lot of school shoes. "Sensible footwear for the student" he called
them. Even the drug store where mosquito dope and ice cream sodas had
been sold now displayed a basket full of small sponges for the sanitary
cleansing of slates. The faithless wretch who kept this store had put a
small sign on the basket reading, "For the classroom." One and all, the
merchants of Main Street had gone over to the Board of Education and all
signs pointed to school.
But the most pathetic sight to be witnessed on that sad, chill, autumn
night, was the small boy in a threadbare gray sweater and shabby cap who
stood gazing wistfully into the seductive windows of Pfiffel's Home
Bakery. The sight of him standing there with his small nose plastered
against the glass, looking with silent yearning upon the jelly rolls and
icing cakes, was enough to arouse pity in the coldest heart.
Only the rear of this poor, hungry little fellow could be seen from the
street, and if his face was pale and gaunt from privation and want, the
hurrying pedestrians on their cheerful way to the movies were spared
that pathetic sight.
All they saw was a shabby cap and an ill-fitting sweater which bulged in
back as if something were being carried in the rear pocket. And there he
stood, a poor little figure, heedless of the merry throngs that passed,
his wistful gaze fixed upon a four-story chocolate cake, a sort of
edible skyscraper, with a tiny dome of a glazed cherry upon the top of
it. And of all the surging throng on Main Street that bleak, autumnal
night, none noticed this poor fellow.
Yes, one. A lady sitting in a big blue automobile saw him. And her
heart, tenderer than the jelly rolls in Pfiffel's window, went out to
him. Perhaps she had a little _boy_ of her own....
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