Poetry shook his head

I was sitting right that minute in a big white rowboat that was docked
at the end of the pier which ran far out into the water of the lake.
From where I was sitting, in the stern of the boat, I could see the
two brown tents where the rest of the Sugar Creek Gang was supposed to
be taking a short afternoon nap–which was one of the rules about camp
life none of us liked very well, but which was good for us on account
of we always had more pep for the rest of the day and didn’t get too
tired before night.

I’d already had my afternoon nap, and had sneaked out of the tent and
come to the dock where I was right that minute, to just sit there and
imagine things such as whether there would be anything very exciting
to see if some of the gang could explore that great big tree-covered
island away out across the water, about a mile away.

Whew! it certainly was hot out here close to the water with the
sunlight pouring itself on me from above and also shining up at me from
below, on account of the lake was like a great big blue mirror that
caught sunlight and reflected it right up under my straw hat, making
my hot freckled face even hotter than it was. Because it was the style
for the people to get tanned almost all over, I didn’t mind the heat as
much as I might have.

It seemed to be getting hotter every minute though–the kind of
day we sometimes had back home at Sugar Creek just before some big
thunderheads came sneaking up and surprised us with a fierce storm. It
was also a perfect day for a sunbath. What on earth made people want
to get brown all over for anyway? I thought. Then I looked down at
my freckled brownish arm, and was disgusted at myself, on account of
instead of getting a nice tan like Circus, the acrobatic member of our
gang, I always got sunburned and freckled and my upper arm looked like
a piece of raw steak instead of a nice piece of brown fried chicken….
Thinking that, reminded me that I was hungry and I wished it was
suppertime.

It certainly was a quiet camp, I thought, as I looked at the two tents,
where the rest of the gang was supposed to be sleeping. I just couldn’t
imagine anybody sleeping that long–anyway, not any boy–unless he was
at home and it was morning and time to get up and do the chores.

Just that second I heard a sound of footsteps from up the shore, and
looking up I saw a smallish boy with brownish curly hair coming toward
me along the path that runs all along the shore line. I knew right away
it was Little Jim, my almost best friend, and the grandest little guy
that ever lived. I knew it was Little Jim not only ’cause he carried
his ash stick with him, which was about as long as a man’s cane, but
because of the shuffling way he walked. I noticed he was stopping every
now and then to stoop over and look at some kind of wild flower, then
he’d write something down in a book he was carrying which I knew was a
wild flower Guide Book.

He certainly was an interesting little guy, I thought. I guess he
hadn’t seen me, ’cause I could hear him talking to himself which is
what he had a habit of doing when he was alone and there was something
kinda nice about it that made me like him even better than ever. I
think that little guy does more honest-to-goodness thinking than any
of the rest of the gang, certainly more than Dragonfly, the pop-eyed
member of our gang, who is spindle-legged and slim and whose nose turns
south at the end; or Poetry, the barrel-shaped member who reads all the
books he can get his hands on and who knows one hundred poems by heart
and is always quoting poems; and also more than Big Jim, the leader of
our gang who is the oldest and who has maybe seventeen smallish strands
of fuzz on his upper lip which one day will be a mustache.

I ducked my head down below the dock so Little Jim couldn’t see me, and
listened, still wondering “What on earth!”

Little Jim stopped right beside the path that leads from the dock to
the Indian kitchen which was close by the two brown tents, stooped down
and said, “Hm! Wild Strawberry….” He leafed through the book he was
carrying and with his eversharp pencil wrote something down. Then he
looked around him and, seeing a Balm of Gilead tree right close to the
dock with a five-leafed ivy on it, went straight to the tree and with
his magnifying glass, began to study the ivy.

I didn’t know I was going to call out to him and interrupt his
thoughts, which my mother had taught me not to do, when a person is
thinking hard, on account of anybody doesn’t like to have somebody
interrupt his thoughts.

“Hi, Little Jim!” I said from the stern of the boat where I was.

Say, that little guy acted as cool as a cucumber. He just looked slowly
around in different directions, including up and down, then his bluish
eyes looked absent-mindedly into mine, and for some reason I had the
kindest, warmest feeling toward him. His face wasn’t tanned like the
rest of the gang’s either, but was what people called “fair”; his
smallish nose was straight, his little chin was pear-shaped, and his
darkish eyebrows were straight across, his smallish ears were like they
sometimes were–lopped over a little on account of that is the way he
nearly always wears his straw hat.

When he saw me sitting there in the boat, he grinned and said, “I’ll
bet I’ll get a hundred in nature study in school next fall. I’ve found
forty-one different kinds of wild flowers.”

I wasn’t interested in the study of plants at all, right that minute,
but in some kind of an adventure instead, so I said to Little Jim, “I
wonder if there are any different kinds of flowers over there on that
island, where Robinson Crusoe had his adventures.”

Little Jim looked at me without seeing me, I thought, then he grinned
and said, “Robinson Crusoe never saw _that_ island.”

“Oh yes, he did! He’s looking at it right this very minute and wishing
he could explore it and find a treasure or something,” meaning I was
wishing I was Robinson Crusoe myself.

Just that second a strange voice piped up from behind some sumac on
the other side of the Balm of Gilead tree and said, “You can’t be
a Robinson Crusoe and land on a tropical island without having a
shipwreck first, and who wants to have a wreck?”

I knew right away it was Poetry, even before I saw his barrel-shaped
body shuffle out from behind the sumac and I saw his fat face, and his
pompadour hair and his heavy eye brows that grew straight across the
top of his nose, like he had just one big longish eyebrow instead of
two like most people have.

“You _are_ a wreck,” I called to him, and didn’t mean it, but we always
liked to have word fights, which we didn’t mean and always liked each
other better all the time.

“I’ll leave you guys to fight it out,” Little Jim said to us. “I’ve got
to find nine more kinds of wild flowers,” and with that, that little
chipmunk of a guy shuffled on up the shore swinging his stick around
and stooping over to study some new kind of flower he spied every now
and then.

And that’s how Poetry and I got our heads together to plan a game of
Robinson Crusoe, not knowing we were going to run into one of the
strangest adventures we’d had in our whole lives.

“See here,” Poetry said, grunting himself down and sliding down off the
side of the dock and into the boat where I was, “if we play Robinson
Crusoe, we’ll have to have one other person to go along with us.”

“But there were only _two_ of them,” I said, “–Robinson Crusoe himself
and his man Friday, the colored boy who became his slave, and whom
Crusoe saved from being eaten by the cannibals, and who, after he was
saved, did nearly all Crusoe’s work for him.”

“All right,” Poetry said, “I’ll be Crusoe, and _you_ be his Man Friday.”

“I _will_ not,” I said. “I’m already Crusoe. I thought of it first, and
I’m already _him_.”

Poetry and I frowned at each other, almost half mad for a minute until
his fat face brightened up and he said, “All right, you be Crusoe, and
I’ll be one of the cannibals getting ready to eat your man Friday, and
you come along and rescue him.”

“But if you’re going to be a cannibal, I’ll have to _shoot_ you, and
then you’ll be _dead_,” I said.

That spoiled that plan for a jiffy, until Poetry’s bright mind thought
of something else, which was, “didn’t Robinson Crusoe have a pet goat
on the island with him?”

“Sure,” I said, and Poetry said, “All right, after you shoot me, I’ll
be the goat.”

Well that settled that, but which one of the gang should be the colored
slave, whom Robinson Crusoe saved on a Friday and whom he named his Man
Friday, we couldn’t decide right that minute.

It was Poetry who thought of a way to help us decide which other one of
the gang to take along with us.

“Big Jim is _out_,” I said, “’cause he’s too big and would want to be
the leader himself, and Robinson Crusoe has to be _that_.”

“And _Circus_ is out, too,” Poetry said, on account of he’s almost as
big as Big Jim.

“Then there’s only Little Jim, Dragonfly and Little Tom Till left,” I
said, and Poetry said, “Maybe not a one of them’ll be willing to be
your Man Friday.”

We didn’t have time to talk about it any further, ’cause right
that second Dragonfly came moseying out toward us from his tent,
his spindling legs swinging awkwardly and his crooked nose and
dragonfly-like eyes making him look just like a ridiculous Friday
afternoon, I thought.

“He’s the man I want,” I said. “We three have had lots of exciting
adventures together, and he’ll be perfect.”

“But he can’t keep quiet when there’s a mystery. He always sneezes just
when we don’t want him to.”

Right that second, Dragonfly reached the pier and let the bottoms of
his bare feet go ker-plop, ker-plop, ker-plop on the smooth boards,
getting closer with every “ker-plop.”

When he spied Poetry and me in the boat at the end, he stopped like
he had been shot at, and looked down at us and said with an accusing
voice, “You guys going on a boat ride? I’m going along!”

I started to say, “Sure, we want you,” thinking how when we got over to
the island, we could make a slave out of him as easy as pie.

But Poetry beat me to it by saying, “There’s only one more of the gang
going with us, and it might not be you.”

Dragonfly plopped himself down on the edge of the dock, swung one foot
out to the gunwale of the boat, caught it with his toes, pulled it
toward him, swished himself in and sat down in the seat behind Poetry.
“If anybody goes, I go, or I’ll scream and tell the rest of the gang,
and nobody’ll get to go.”

I looked at Poetry and he looked at me and our eyes said to each other,
“Now what?”

“Are you willing to be eaten by a cannibal?” I asked, and he got a
puzzled look in his eyes. “There’re cannibals over there on that
island–one, anyway–a great big fat barrel-shaped one that–”

Poetry’s fist shot forward and socked me in my ribs, which didn’t
have any fat on them, and I grunted and stopped talking at the same
time. “We’re going to play Robinson Crusoe,” Poetry said, “and whoever
goes’ll have to be willing to do everything I say–I mean everything
_Bill_ says.”

“_Please_,” Dragonfly said. “I’ll do _anything_.”

Well that was a promise, but Poetry wasn’t satisfied. He pretended
he wanted Tom Till to go along, on account of he liked Tom a lot and
thought he’d make a better Man Friday than Dragonfly.

“We’ll try you out,” Poetry said, and caught hold of the dock with his
hands and climbed out of the boat, all of us following him.

“We’ll have to initiate you,” Poetry explained, as we all swished
along together. “We can’t take anybody on a treasure hunt who can’t
keep quiet when he’s told to, and who can’t take orders without saying
‘WHY?’”

“Why?” Dragonfly wanted to know, and grinned, but Poetry said with a
very serious face, “It isn’t funny,” and we went on.

“What’re you going to do?” Dragonfly wanted to know, as we started to
march him along with us up the shore to the place where we were going
to initiate him. I didn’t know myself where we were going to do it,
but Poetry seemed to know exactly what to do and where to go and why,
so I acted like I knew too, Poetry making me stop to pick up a great
big empty gallon can that had had prunes in it, the gang having to eat
prunes for breakfast nearly every morning on our camping trip.

“What’s _that_ for?” Dragonfly wanted to know, and Poetry said, “That’s
to cook our dinner in.”

“You mean–you mean–_me_!”

“You!” Poetry said, “Or you can’t be Bill’s Man Friday.”

“But I get saved, don’t I?” Dragonfly said with a worried voice.

“Sure, just as soon as I get shot,” Poetry explained.

“And then you turn into a goat,” I said to Poetry, as he panted along
beside us, “and right away you eat the prune can!”

With that, Poetry smacked his lips like he had just finished eating a
delicious tin can. Then he leaned over and groaned like it had given
him a stomach-ache.

Right that second, I decided to try Dragonfly’s obedience, so I said,
“All right, Friday, take the can you’re going to be cooked in and fill
it half full of lake water!”

There was a quick scowl on Dragonfly’s face, which said, “I don’t want
to do it.” He shrugged his scrawny shoulders lifted his eyebrows and
the palms of his hands at the same time, and said, “I’m a poor heathen;
I can’t even understand English; I don’t want to fill any old prune can
with water.”

With that, I scowled, and said to Poetry in a fierce voice, “That
settles _that_! He can’t take orders. Let’s send him home!”

Boy, did Dragonfly ever come to life in a hurry. “All right, all
right,” he whined, “give me the can!” He grabbed it out of my hand,
made a dive toward the lake which was still close by us, dipped the can
in and came back with it filled clear to the top with nice clean water.

“Here, Crusoe,” he puffed. “Your Man Friday is your humble slave.” He
extended the can toward me.

“Carry it yourself!” I said.

And then, all of a sudden, Dragonfly set it down on the ground where
some of it splashed over the top onto Poetry’s shoes, and Dragonfly got
a stubborn look on his face and said, “I think the cannibal ought to
carry it. I’m not even _Friday_ yet–not till the cannibal gets killed.”

Well, he was right, so Poetry looked at me, and I at him, and he picked
up the can, and we went on till we came to the boathouse, which if
you’ve read “The Sugar Creek Gang Goes North,” you already know about.

It was going to be fun initiating Dragonfly–just how much fun I didn’t
know–and I certainly didn’t know what a mystery we were going to run
into in less than fifteen minutes of the next half hour.

In only a little while we came to Santa’s boathouse, Santa as you
maybe know being the barrel-shaped owner of the property where we had
pitched our tents. He also owned a lot of other lakeshore property up
here in this part of the Paul Bunyan country. Everybody called him
Santa ’cause he was round like all the different Santa Clauses we’d
seen and was always laughing.

Santa himself with his big laughing voice called to us when he saw us
coming and said, “Well, well, if it isn’t Bill Collins, Dragonfly and
Poetry,” Santa being a smart man, knowing that if there’s anything a
boy likes to hear better than anything else, it’s somebody calling him
by his name.

“Hi,” we all answered him, Poetry setting the prune can of water down
with a savage sigh like it was too heavy to stand and hold.

Santa was standing beside his boathouse door, with a hammer in one hand
and a handsaw in the other.

“Where to, with that can of water?” he asked us, and Dragonfly said,
“We’re going to pour the water in a big hole up there on the hill and
make a new lake.”

Santa grinned at all of us with a mischievous twinkle in his bluish
eyes, knowing Dragonfly hadn’t told any lie but was only doing what
most boys do most all the time anyway–playing “Make-believe.”

“May we look inside your boathouse a minute?” Poetry asked, and Santa
said, “Certainly, go right in,” which we did, and looked around a
little.

Poetry acted very mysterious, like he was thinking about something
very important, while he frowned with his fat forehead, and looked
at different things such as the cot in the farther end, the shavings
and sawdust on the floor, and the carpenter’s tools above the work
bench–which were chisels, screwdrivers, saws, planes and also hammers
and nails; also Poetry examined the different kinds of boards made out
of beautifully grained wood.

“You boys like to hold this saw and hammer a minute?” Santa asked us,
and handed a hammer to me and a saw handle to Dragonfly, which we took,
not knowing why.

“That’s the hammer and that’s the saw the kidnapper used the night he
was building the gravehouse in the Indian cemetery,” Santa said, and I
looked and felt puzzled, till he explained, saying, “The police found
them the night you boys caught him.”

“But–how did they _get_ there?” I asked, but Poetry answered me by
saying, “Don’t you remember, Bill Collins, that we found this boathouse
door wide open that night, with the latch hanging? The kidnapper stole
’em.”

I looked at the hammer in my hand, and remembered, and tried to realize
that the hammer handle I had in my hand right that minute was the same
one that, one night last week, had been in the wicked hand of a very
fierce man who had used it in an Indian cemetery to help him build a
gravehouse. Also, the saw in Poetry’s hand was the one the man had used
to saw pieces of lumber into the right lengths.

“And _here_,” Santa said, lifting a piece of canvas from something in
the corner, “is the little, nearly-finished gravehouse. The lumber was
stolen from here also. The police brought it out this morning. They’ve
taken fingerprints from the saw and hammer.”

“Why on earth did he want to build an Indian gravehouse?” I asked,
looking at the pretty little house that looked like a longish chicken
coop, like we have at home at Sugar Creek, only twice as long, almost.
Dragonfly spoke up then and said, “He maybe was going to bury the
little Ostberg girl there.”

But Poetry shook his head, “_I_ think he was going to bury the ransom
money there, where nobody in the world would guess to look.”

Well, we had to get going with our game of Robinson Crusoe, which we
did, all of us feeling fine to think that last week we had had a chance
to catch the kidnapper, even though the ransom money was still missing.

But say, it was a queer feeling I had in my mind as we left the
boathouse and went up the narrow, hardly-ever-used road to the top of
the hill and followed that road through a forest of jack pine and along
the edge of the little clearing. I was remembering what exciting things
happened here the very first night we’d come up North on our camping
trip. Poetry was remembering it too, ’cause he said in a ghost-like
voice so as to try to make the atmosphere of Dragonfly’s initiation
seem even more mysterious to him, “Right here, at this sandy place in
the road, is where the car was stuck in the sand, and right over here
behind these bushes is where Bill and I were crouching half scared to
death, watching him.”

“Yeah,” I said, “and he had the little Ostberg girl he’d kidnapped
right in the back seat of the car all the time and we didn’t know it
for sure.”

“How’d he get his car _un_stuck?” Dragonfly wanted to know, even though
the whole Sugar Creek Gang had probably been told it a dozen times,
every time Poetry and I had told it to them. So I said to Dragonfly,
“Well, his wheels were spinning and spinning in the sand and he
couldn’t make his car go forward, but it would rock forth and back, so
he got out and let the air out of his back tires till they were almost
half flat. That made them wider and increased traction, and then when
he climbed back into his car and stepped on the gas, why he pulled out
of the sand and went lickety-sizzle right on up this road.”

“You going to initiate me _here_?” Dragonfly wanted to know, and I
started to say, “Yes,” but Poetry said, “No, a little farther up, where
we found the little girl herself.”

We walked along, in the terribly sultry afternoon weather. Pretty soon
we turned off to the side of the road and came out into a little
clearing that was surrounded by tall pine trees. I was remembering
how right here Poetry and I had heard the little girl gasping out
half-smothered cries and with our flashlights shining right on her,
we’d found her lying wrapped up in an Indian blanket.

“She was lying right here,” Poetry said, “–right here where we’re
going to initiate you.” Poetry’s ordinarily duck-like voice changed
to a sound like a growling bear’s voice as he talked and sounded very
fierce. There really wasn’t anything to worry about, though, ’cause we
knew the police had caught the kidnapper and he was in jail somewhere,
and the pretty little golden-haired Ostberg girl was safe and sound
with her parents again back in St. Paul.

“But they never did find the ransom money,” Poetry said, which was
the truth, “and nobody knows where it is. But whoever finds it gets a
thousand dollar reward–a whole thousand dollars!”

“You think maybe it’s buried somewhere?” Dragonfly asked with a serious
face.

“Sure,” Poetry said. “We’re going to play Robinson Crusoe and Treasure
Island both at once. First we save our Man Friday from the cannibals,
and then we quit playing Robinson Crusoe and change to Treasure Island.”

Well, it was good imagination and lots of fun, and I was already
imagining myself to be Robinson Crusoe on an island, living all by
myself. In fact, I sometimes have more fun when I imagine myself to
be somebody else than when I am just plain red-haired fiery-tempered,
freckled-faced Bill Collins, living back at Sugar Creek.

It was fun the way Poetry and I initiated Dragonfly into our secret
gang–anyway, fun for Poetry and me. This is the way we did it….

I hid myself out of sight behind some low fir trees with a stick in my
hand for a gun, and Poetry stood Dragonfly up against a tree and tied
him with a piece of string he carried in his pocket.

“Now, don’t you _dare_ break that string!” Poetry told him. “You’re
going to be cooked and eaten in a few minutes! You can pretend to _try_
to get loose, but don’t you dare do it!”

I stood there hiding behind my fir trees getting ready to shoot with
my imaginary gun, just in time to save Dragonfly from being cooked.
Dragonfly looked half crazy standing there tied to the tree and with a
grin on his face, watching Poetry stack a little stack of sticks in one
place for our imaginary fire. We wouldn’t start a real fire on account
of it would have been absolutely crazy to start one, nobody with any
sense starting a fire in a forest on account of there might be a
terrible forest fire and thousands of beautiful trees would be burned,
and lots of wild animals, and maybe homes and cottages of people, and
even people themselves.

A jiffy after the stack of sticks was ready, Poetry set the big prune
can on top, then he turned to Dragonfly and started to untie him.

“Groan!” Poetry said to him. “Act like you’re scared to death! Yell!
_Do_ omething!”

Dragonfly didn’t make a very scared black man. “There’s nothing to be
afraid of,” he said; and there wasn’t, I thought–but all of a sudden
there was, ’cause the very second Poetry had Dragonfly cut loose
and was dragging him toward the imaginary fire, Dragonfly making it
hard for him by struggling and hanging back and making his body limp
so Poetry had to almost carry him, and just as I peered through the
branches of my hideout and pointed my stick at Poetry and was getting
ready to yell, “BANG! BANG!” a couple of times, and then rush in and
rescue Dragonfly, there was a crashing noise in the underbrush behind
me, and footsteps running and then a terribly loud explosion that
sounded like the shot of a revolver or some kind of a gun which almost
scared the living daylights out of me, and also out of the poor black
boy and the cannibal that was getting ready to eat him.

Say, when I heard that shot behind me, I jumped almost out of my skin,
I was so startled and frightened. Poetry and poor little pop-eyed
Dragonfly acted like they were scared even worse than I was.

When you’re all of a sudden scared like that, you don’t know what to
say or think. Things sort of swim in your head and your heart beats
fiercely for a minute. Maybe we wouldn’t have been quite so frightened
if we hadn’t had so many important things happen to us already on our
camping trip, such as finding a little kidnapped girl in this very
spot the very first night we’d been up here, and then the next night
catching the kidnapper himself in a spooky Indian cemetery.

I was prepared to expect almost anything when I heard that explosion
and the crashing in the underbrush; and then I could hardly believe
my astonished eyes when I saw right behind and beside Dragonfly and
Poetry a little puff of bluish gray smoke and about seventeen pieces of
shredded paper, and knew that some body had thrown a firecracker right
into the middle of our excitement.

“It’s a firecracker!” Dragonfly yelled at us, and then I had an
entirely new kind of scare when I saw a little yellow flame of fire
where the explosion had been, and saw some of the dry pine needles leap
into flames and the flames start to spread fast.

I knew it must have been one of the gang who’d maybe had some
firecrackers left over from the fourth of July at Sugar Creek. Quicker
even than I can write it for you, I dashed into the center of things,
grabbed up our prune can and in less than a jiffy had the fire out, and
then a jiffy later, I heard a scuffling behind me and a grunting and
puffing; and looking around quick, the empty prune can in my hands, I
was just in time to see Circus, our acrobat, scramble out of Poetry’s
fat hands, and in less than another jiffy, go shinning up a tree,
where he perched himself on a limb and looked down at us, grinning like
a monkey.

I was mad at him for breaking up our game of make-believe, and for
shooting off a firecracker in the forest where it might start a
terrible fire. So I yelled up at him and said, “You crazy goof! Don’t
you know it’s terribly dry around here and you might burn up the whole
Chippewa forest!”

“I was trying to help you kill a fat cannibal,” Circus said. He had
a hurt expression in his voice and on his face, as he added, “Please
don’t tell Barry I was such a dumb-bell,”–Barry being our camp
director.

I forgave Circus right away when I saw he was really trying to join in
with our fun and just hadn’t used his head, not thinking of the danger
of forest fires at all.

“You shouldn’t even be _carrying_ matches, to light a firecracker
with,” Poetry said up at him.

“Every camper ought to have a waterproof matchbook with matches in it,”
Circus said. “I read it in a book, telling what to take along on a
camping trip. Besides,” Circus said down to us, “we can’t play Robinson
Crusoe without having to eat food, and how are we going to eat without
a fire?” I knew then that he’d guessed what game we were playing and
had decided to go along.

“We don’t need you,” I said. “We need only my Man Friday, and a
cannibal that gets killed–”

“And turns into a goat,” Poetry cut in and said.

“Only _one_ goat would be terribly lonesome,” Circus said. “I think I
ought to go along. I’d be willing to be another goat.”

Well, we had to get Dragonfly’s initiation finished, so I took charge
of things and said, “All right, Poetry, you’re dead! Lie down over
there by that tree. And you, Dragonfly, get down on your knees in front
of me and put your head clear down to the ground.”

“Why?” Dragonfly wanted to know, and I said, “Keep still. My Man Friday
doesn’t ask ‘Why?’”

Dragonfly looked worried a little, but did as I said, and bowed his
head low in front of me, with his face almost touching the ground.

“Now,” I said, “Take hold of my right foot and set it on the top of
your neck–NO” I yelled down at him, “Don’t ask ‘_why_!’ JUST DO IT!”
which Dragonfly did.

“And now, my left foot,” I ordered.

“That’s what the blackboy did in Robinson Crusoe, so Crusoe would
know he thanked him for saving his life from the terrible cannibals,
and that he would be willing to be his slave forever,” I said to
Dragonfly. “Do you solemnly promise to do everything I say, from now on
and forevermore?” I asked, and when Dragonfly started to say, “I do,”
but got only as far as “I–” when he started to make a funny little
sniffling noise. His right hand let loose of my foot, and he grabbed
his nose and went into a tailspin kind of a sneeze, as he ducked his
neck out of the way of my foot and rolled over and said, “I’m allergic
to your foot,” which the dead cannibal on the ground thought was funny
and snickered, but I saw a little bluish flower down there with pretty
yellowish stamens in its center, and I knew why Dragonfly had sneezed.

My Man Friday, in rolling over, tumbled ker-smack into the cannibal
and the two of them forgot they were in a game and started a friendly
scuffle, just as Circus slid down the tree, joined in with them, and
all of a sudden Dragonfly’s initiation was over. He was my Man Friday,
and from now on he had to do everything I said.

Up to now, it was only a game we’d been playing, but a jiffy later
Circus rolled over and over, clear out of reach of the rest of us, and
scrambled up into a sitting position and said to us excitedly, “Hey
Gang! Look! I’ve found something–here at the foot of the tree. _It’s a
letter of some kind!_”

I stared at an old envelope in Circus’s hands, and remembered that
right here where we were was exactly where we’d found the kidnapped
girl and that the police hadn’t been able to find the ransom money, and
that the captured kidnapper hadn’t told them where it was. In fact, he
had absolutely refused to tell them. We’d read it in the newspapers.

Boy oh boy, when I saw that envelope in Circus’s hands, I imagined all
kinds of things, such as it being a ransom note or maybe it had a map
in it and would tell us where we could find the money and everything!
Boy oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!…