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Title: Mark Tidd's Citadel
Author: Kelland, Clarence Budington
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: LITTLE BY LITTLE THEY FORCED US BACK UNTIL ONE OF THEM
SQUEEZED THROUGH]



                          Mark Tidd’s Citadel

                                   BY
                       CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND
                         author of “Mark Tidd”
                      “Mark Tidd in the Backwoods”
                      “Mark Tidd in Business” etc.


                              ILLUSTRATED

                      HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
                          NEW YORK AND LONDON



                                Books by
                       CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND

          MARK TIDD’S CITADEL. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
          THE HIDDEN SPRING. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
          MARK TIDD. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
          MARK TIDD IN THE BACKWOODS. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
          MARK TIDD IN BUSINESS. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
          THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER. Illustrated. Cloth, Leather

                      HARPER A BROTHERS, NEW YORK


                          Mark Tidd’s Citadel
                 Copyright, 1916, by Harper & Brothers
                Printed in the United States of America
                        Published October, 1916



                             ILLUSTRATIONS

    Little by Little They Forced Us Back Until One of Them
    Squeezed Through

    The B-bass Was Taken by Somebody that Wasn’t Very Big

    I Could See It Was a Man’s Head and He Was Spying In

    Little by Little He Jerked Me Toward the Shore

    I Could Get Into the Water without the Least Bit of Danger
    of Anybody’s Seeing Me

    There We Stood and Beat Them Back as Fast as They Came On



                          MARK TIDD’S CITADEL



                               CHAPTER I


The joke was on Mark Tidd!

All four of us, Mark, Plunk Smalley, Binney Jenks, and Tallow Martin,
which is me, stood and looked at the big, ramshackle summer hotel and
then looked at one another—and three of us grinned. Grinned, did I say?
Maybe it started out with a grin, but it ended up with us rolling on the
grass and yelling. For the hotel was closed tight, and anybody with half
an eye could see it hadn’t been opened for years!

The three of us who laughed didn’t include Mark Tidd. He didn’t laugh.
He looked as if he was attending three funerals at once and trying to do
his duty by all of them. He was flabbergasted—and that’s the first time
I ever saw him in that shape. The whole hundred and sixty pounds of him
was flabbergasted. His little eyes looked sort of dazed; his jaw dropped
till his fat cheeks stretched out almost thin, and he didn’t have a word
to say.

Was the joke on him? Well, I should say! Here he had brought us all the
way from Michigan to Vermont to spend our vacation in this summer hotel
in the mountains—and the hotel hadn’t been running since Ethan Allen
licked the British! Now I know why the driver who brought us over had
chuckled so much, and why everybody else in the little town had seemed
to know something funny that they didn’t want to tell us as soon as we
told them where we were going.

I don’t blame them. I’d have laughed, too. Think of us out there at Lake
Ravona, ten miles from town—and pretty nearly a million miles from
Wicksville, where we lived. Think of us there, and then think about the
hotel being shut up and ready to fall down—and us hungry and likely to
keep on being hungry, with no chance to get anything to eat. It had cost
each of us close to twenty dollars railroad fare to get there, and it
would cost that much to get home again—with nothing to show for it. Why,
the jokers at the grocery would never have done laughing at us! Life
would be close to unbearable, and Mark Tidd’s reputation for smartness
would be hit so hard it would pretty nearly be a total wreck.

We three finished up laughing and waited to see what Mark would have to
say. In a minute his face pulled back into shape and _he_ began to grin,
too. That was one fine thing about Mark—he was ready to own up when the
horse was on him, and to laugh just as loud as anybody else.

“It l-l-looks,” says he, stuttering worse than he had for a month
back—“it looks l-like that advertisin’ book wasn’t quite up to
d-d-date.” He fumbled in his pocket and brought out a little booklet
with a picture on the cover of it and began studying it. “Um!” says he,
and then he sat down ker-plump and laughed so he shook all over like a
plate of jelly. “Six years old. Six. Wonder how they kept it s-s-so
clean in the depot.”

We had found the book in the depot one day when we were down visiting
with old Sam Clarke, the agent, and it had got us all excited by what it
said about fishing and mountains and deer in the woods and such like. It
sounded like about the best place in the world to go—and we’d never
stopped to see when it was printed. Six years! The hotel didn’t look
like it had been run for twenty-six.

Even Mrs. Tidd hadn’t noticed, and she is one of the most noticing women
you ever heard of. She hadn’t noticed, and she had liked the place as
well as we did—so much that she got our mothers to let us go with Mark.
Mr. Tidd was paying our expenses. He was rich now because he had
invented a turbine engine, and, because we had helped a little once when
some men had gotten his model away from him, he was going to send us all
to college, and every little while he did something fine for us—like
paying for this vacation trip.

“Well,” says I, “what next?”

“Better climb back into the wagon and make for home,” says Plunk
Smalley.

Mark wrinkled up his nose and looked out at the lake. “D-don’t exactly
fancy goin’ home like this,” he says.

“Nothin’ else to do,” says Binney Jenks.

Mark turned to the man who drove us out. “Kind of a humorous feller,
ain’t you?” he says, and the man grinned, not mean, but like he was
enjoying himself and wouldn’t mind being right friendly.

“I calc’late to know a joke when I see one,” says he.

“This is one, all r-right,” says Mark; “but maybe we can pull some of
the laugh out of it if we can get a good holt onto it.... Who owns this
l-lumber-pile?”

“Man named Ames.”

“What kind of a man is he?”

“Takes after you for flesh, and lets folks call him Jim,” says the
driver.

“Live in town?”

“Yes.”

“Guess we better call on Mr. Ames then,” says Mark. “Pile into the
wagon, f-fellers.”

“What’s the idea?” I asked him.

“’Ain’t g-got that far yet,” says Mark.

That was the way with him. You couldn’t get anything out of him till he
was ready to tell you. You could ask questions all day without finding
out a thing. So we got into the wagon and drove back the ten miles to
town. The driver stopped in front of a big white house.

“This here’s Ames’s place,” says he, “and there’s Jim.”

A fat man was working in the garden. He was not only fat, but tall and
wide across the shoulders. The fat was mostly in front and from his chin
to his legs he looked just like a whopping-big egg. There was a cane
hanging to his suspenders, I noticed.

He turned around to see who was stopping, and after squinting at us a
moment through colored glasses he dropped his hoe, reached for his cane,
and came hobbling toward us. He was lame. One of his legs—the left
one—was stiff at the knee. He leaned on his cane and sort of balanced
himself by holding his right hand on his hip. It made him come at you
side on.

I was so interested in his gait that I didn’t notice his face till he
was close by. Then I guessed I knew why the fellows all called him Jim.
He was the sort of man everybody would call Jim even if his name
happened to be Methuselah. His face was red—not the way Mark Tidd’s
cheeks are red, but red like a box-car. He had three chins in view and I
suspected a couple more hidden by his shirt. There was a little scraggly
mustache—hardly enough of it to pay him for keeping it, and right above
it was a nose. A nose, did I say? It was more like a monument. It was
the kind of nose folks call a pug, but this was a grown-up pug. It had
got its growth. If county fairs were to give prizes for the biggest pug
noses Mr. Ames would have the world’s championship. He had on a little
linen cap that looked as if he’d borrowed it from some boy.

“Howdy!” says he, and smiled—no, grinned.

“Howdy, Jim!” says our driver. “Some boarders just come in from the
Ravona House.”

“Whoo-oo-ssh!” says Mr. Ames, and stared at Mark. “Didn’t stay long, eh?
Board didn’t suit, maybe.”

“’Twasn’t the b-board, exactly,” says Mark, “though I’ve seen a better
t-t-table set. What we complain of is the crowds. We came to a quiet
p-place. Didn’t want to get in a jam. Soon’s we saw folks elbowin’ one
another all over the p-place we decided we couldn’t s-stay.”

“Git out of that wagon,” says Mr. Ames, “and set down.”

We did, while Mr. Ames grinned at us like we were good to eat.

“What d’ you calc’late on doin’?” says he.

“’Ain’t got no f-further than calc’latin’,” says Mark.

Mr. Ames pounded on the porch with his cane and shouted: “Ma, here’s
four boys—and one of ’em special size—to stay to supper. Don’t forget
the pie.”

That sounded pretty good to all of us, I can tell you. Twenty miles of
driving with nothing to eat is enough to make a fellow dance a jig at
the mention of a baked potato.

“Mr. Ames,” says Mark, “we ’ain’t never set anything on fire.”

“No?” says Mr. Ames, wondering what Mark was getting at, I expect.

“Nor we ’ain’t ever been arrested for doin’ d-d-damage to property.”

“You s’prise me,” says Mr. Ames.

“And we d-don’t want the whole town of Wicksville laughin’ at us.”

“Don’t wonder at it a mite.”

“We can c-cook.”

“And eat,” says Mr. Ames, with another grin.

“Folks say we can take care of ourselves.”

“I’d take their word for it.”

“Then, Mr. Ames, will you rent us your ho-ho-hotel?”

Well, sir! You could have knocked me over with a feather. You could have
done it with _half_ a feather, and wouldn’t have had to hit very hard,
either. Rent his hotel! I thought Mark had been hit by sunstroke.

“Calc’late to run it? Calc’late to go into the hotel business?”

“Calc’late to l-live in it,” says Mark. “Just the four of us.”

“Hum! Occupy the whole thirty-nine bedrooms, besides the office and
kitchens and dinin’-room and other parts of the buildin’?”

“We want the whole b-business. Don’t want anybody else there.”

Mr. Ames scratched his head and felt of his prize nose and eyed Mark and
the rest of us. “Shouldn’t be s’prised if we could make a deal,” says
he.

“How much?” says Mark, business-like as a banker.

“Calc’late to fish?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Calc’late to ketch any?”

“If they’re there.”

“Rent’ll be five pounds of bass, live weight, to be paid every Thursday.
I’ll come after it.” He pounded on the porch with his cane again and
bellowed: “Ma, I’ve rented the hotel. Got the fixin’s for four beds?”

“Got the fixin’s for forty,” says Ma Ames from the back of the house
somewheres. “Attic’s full of beddin’ from that tarnation summer-resort
place.”

“There.... How about dishes and cookin’-tools, ma?”

“Barn loft’s full of ’em.”

“Want to move in right away, eh?”

“Yes, sir,” says Mark.

“Haul you and your stuff out to-morrow. Included in the rent,” says Mr.
Ames.

Mark started in to thank him, and so did the rest of us, but it made him
bashful and fidgety and you could see he didn’t like it. Just in the
middle of it Ma Ames called, “Supper,” and in we went to one of the best
and biggest meals of victuals I ever tried to get the best of.



                               CHAPTER II


Next morning Mr. Ames got us out of bed before a rooster had time to
crow. He had the wagon all loaded and the horses hitched when we got
down-stairs, and all there was for us to do was to pile on.

Ten miles is quite a drive with a heavy load, but it was still early
when we pulled up alongside the porch of the big hotel. It made me sort
of gasp when I looked at it. It was so big, and we were going to live in
it all alone. Mr. Ames said there were thirty-nine bedrooms, and I
expect there were about that many more rooms of other kinds. It was a
funny-looking place, all bulges and bay-windows. It looked as if it had
been built in a dozen pieces by folks whose ideas were a heap different.
There were three stories to it, and almost every bedroom opened out on
to a gallery or a porch or a balcony.

The whole of it stood on a point going out into the lake. Just off the
end of the point was a tiny island with a little bridge across to it,
and on that was another big building, where, Mr. Ames told us, there
used to be a room for dancing, with bedrooms for the help up-stairs.

And that was all there was to it. As far as you could see there wasn’t
another building. Mr. Ames said there wasn’t a cottage on the lake and
that the nearest farm-house was four miles away. The woods came almost
down to the shore of the lake, and all around it the hills bulged up a
dozen times as high as any hill I ever saw in Michigan.

“Well,” says Mr. Ames, “how does she look to you?”

“F-fine,” says Mark; and we all agreed with him.

“Boats in the boat-house yonder,” says Mr. Ames. “Need paintin’ and
calkin’, I expect. I put the fixin’s in the wagon, so if you want a boat
you’ll have to tinker one up.”

“It’ll give us somethin’ to do,” says I, for I like to carpenter or
meddle with machinery or mend up things. “That’ll be my job.”

“I’ll see you settled,” says Mr. Ames, “and then git back to town.”

He helped us carry our things inside. Some of the stuff we piled in the
big, dusty, cobwebby office to be taken care of later. The bedding we
took up-stairs after we had selected our rooms. We took two bedrooms.
Plunk Smalley and I were in one and Mark was in the other with Binney,
because Binney was smallest and would leave enough room in bed for all
of Mark. The rooms were right over the office and were connected by a
door. There was a door out of Mark’s room on to a big round porch right
on top of the main porch of the hotel. They were dandy, pleasant rooms.

We put in most of the day cleaning up the rooms we wanted to use and
fixing up the big range in the kitchen. We expected to cook most of our
meals outdoors, but there would be some days when we couldn’t and that
range would come in handy. It was quite a job, but when we were through
our bedrooms and the office and the dining-room and the halls and
kitchen were as clean as they ever had been. By eight o’clock we were
plenty tired and ready for bed. Then we made a discovery that was going
to be important before we got out of that country—mighty important. We
didn’t have a candle or a lamp or a lantern!

“Better hustle into bed before it gets d-d-dark,” says Mark; and
up-stairs we scurried.

In about two jerks we were undressed and between the sheets. For a
minute everybody was still, and right there I began to feel spooky. I
got to thinking of the long halls and empty bedrooms—and the ten miles
between us and town. It wasn’t comfortable. It seemed like it got
pitch-dark in a minute, and then the wind, which we’d been too busy to
notice, started to blow around the hotel and make noises.

I reached over and felt of Plunk to be sure he was there, and I caught
him in the act of feeling for me. He felt the same way I did.

“Kinda still, ain’t it?” says I.

“I wouldn’t mind if a brass band was to start up under the window,” says
he.

In the other room we heard Mark and Binney begin to talk.

“Git over,” says Binney; “two-thirds of the bed is yours fair and
square, but I ain’t goin’ to sleep danglin’ over the edge.”

We heard Mark wallow over.

“Seems to me there’s l-lots of things rattlin’ and b-bangin’ around,”
says Mark.

“Is the door locked?” says Binney.

“Wasn’t any key,” says Mark.

“Maybe,” says Binney, “if we was to move a chair or somethin’ against it
it wouldn’t rattle so.”

I knew Binney wasn’t worrying about the rattling, but was doing a lot of
thinking about keeping out anything that might be prowling around, and I
nudged Plunk. We sort of giggled at Binney, but I guess both of us felt
the same way he did.

“Go on to sleep,” says Mark.

We were all quiet for a spell, and then Mark began to snore. He wasn’t
the nervous kind, and even if he had been a mite timid he’d have slept
just the same. I never saw such a fellow to eat and sleep.

Well, we laid there in the dark, listening, and after a while I dozed
off. All of a sudden I waked up with Plunk clutching the side of my
face.

“Hush!” says he.

I hushed all right and listened. At first I couldn’t hear anything, but
then I did hear a sound. Thump! Thump! Thump! it went. Then it stopped
and started over. Thump! Thump! Thump!

“Hear it?” whispered Plunk.

“Sure,” says I. “Be still and listen.”

Pretty soon I was sure I heard something soft-footed come sneaking along
the hall. I held my breath and listened with all my might. Whatever it
was, it came along, breathing so you could hear, and stopped by our door
and sniffed. Then it sounded just as if somebody said, “’Shhh!”

“I’m goin’ to see,” says I. “Layin’ here waitin’ to be bit is worse ’n
bein’ up and gettin’ bit.”

I jumped out of bed, with Plunk right after me, and rushed across the
room. Right in the middle of it I ran into somebody coming from the
other way, and down we went in a kicking, punching heap. Scared? Say, I
thought I’d just naturally scream. I guess maybe I did let out some kind
of a yell. Whatever I’d run into was pretty lively and thrashed around
considerable. All of a sudden I realized it was fat—mighty fat.

“Mark Tidd,” says I, “is that you?”

“Wough!” says he. “What you wanderin’ around at night like this for?”

“Same to you. This is our room, ain’t it? Was that you sniffin’ outside
our door?”

“No,” says he. “I heard it and g-g-got up to see.”

“Come on, then,” says I.

We untangled and made for the door. I grabbed it open and looked out.
The hall was as dark as a pocket. The only light was a window at the far
end that seemed about half a mile away. If anything had been between us
and that window we could have seen it, but nothing was there. We
listened. There wasn’t a sound.

“Huh!” says Mark. “Guess it was imagination.”

“Imagination nothin’,” says I. “We wouldn’t both imagine at once, would
we?”

“P-p-probably the wind, then.”

“Wind don’t thump,” says I.

We stood there and argued about it. Of a sudden Mark turned toward the
stairs that led down to the office. “Feels like a d-draught,” says he.
“I shut the outside door.”

“Maybe it blew open.”

“It c-couldn’t. I fixed it.”

“Let’s see, then,” says I; and all four of us in our nightgowns and bare
feet went traipsing down. The door was wide open.

Mark just stood looking at it without a word; then he took hold of his
ear and began to jerk at it like he always does when something happens
that puzzles him more than ordinary. He went close to the door and
looked at the catch as well as he could in the dark. It was all right.

“I shut the d-door and p-pushed the bolt,” says he.

“Then nobody could have got in from outside,” says I.

“Not through the door,” says he. “B-but it looks like somebody went out
of it.”

“What I heard was an animal,” says I, “and animals can’t push bolts—at
least not outside of a circus.”

“S-s-somebody pushed that bolt,” Mark says, stubbornly.

“All right,” says I. “Who was it?”

“I’d give a dollar to know,” says he.

“Sure you locked it?” Plunk asked.

Mark looked at him like he does when somebody’s said something
ridiculous.

“That b-b-bolt was pushed,” he stuttered.

“Well,” says I, “we’ll lock it now, anyhow,” and I slammed the door
shut and pushed the bolt. “Now let’s git back to bed.”

“I don’t like the idee of somebody sneakin’ around this place while
we’re asleep,” says Binney.

“Nor me,” says Plunk.

I didn’t exactly grin with joy at the thought of it myself, but what
could we do about it?

“Let’s set a watch,” says Binney. “Take turns.”

“Shucks!” says Mark.

But Binney stuck to it, and Plunk sided with him. So did I. We drew
matches to see who would watch first and I got the short one. The other
fellows piled into bed and I wrapped myself up in a quilt and sat in a
chair, shivering and pretty lonesome, I can tell you, especially after
the others went to sleep.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d had a light of some sort, but there
wasn’t any light—not even moonlight. So I just sat and wished it was
time for Mark to get up and take my place. I almost dozed off when, way
back in the woods, I heard a whistle. At first I didn’t really know
whether I heard it or not, but in a second it came again, and there was
no mistaking it. Somebody was out there among the trees and he was
whistling to somebody else. What did he whistle for, I wondered, and who
was he whistling to?

I shoved up the window and stepped out on the balcony. The wind almost
whipped my blanket off of me, but I hung on to it and looked all around.
Right in front of me was the lake as black as a great big ink-blot; at
the right was a bay; at the left was the shore and the road with the
woods stretching back. I couldn’t see a thing alive; in fact, I couldn’t
see very much of anything. Then I heard the whistle again, a little
plainer than before.

I strained my eyes in the direction it came from and waited. I kept on
waiting, and then almost before I realized it some kind of an animal
rushed out of the woods and ran up on the porch and jumped against the
door. Twice it jumped. Then it ran down on the grass and tore around to
the back of the hotel where I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t tell what kind
of an animal it was because I could scarcely see it at all, but it was
big. It looked almost as big as a calf.

I got back into the room and shut down the window, because it felt safer
to be inside when animals as big as calves were rampaging around
outside. Just as I got in there was a whopping-big slam down-stairs and
at the far end of the hotel. Just one slam, and then everything was
quiet.

I wrapped up tighter in my blanket and sat out the rest of my watch.
Then I called Mark and told him what I’d seen. I was tired and sleepy
and cold, so, in spite of being pretty nervous, I fell asleep in a
couple of minutes.



                              CHAPTER III


Nothing happened the rest of the night. Whatever it was that had been
prowling around the hotel didn’t prowl any more. By daylight it all
seemed like a joke. But it hadn’t been any joke in the dark, I can tell
you.

The cool air of that mountain lake made us hungry enough to eat the
blankets off the bed, but Mark said that wouldn’t be fair to Mr. Ames.
He said no hotel proprietor liked to have his boarders eat the blankets
except as a last resort. We built a fire in the big fireplace in the
dining-room and it wasn’t two minutes before we had coffee brewing and
bacon frizzling. Binney, who was considerable of a cook, was fixing up
some biscuits. So, you see, we didn’t really need the blankets, after
all.

“What’ll we do to-day?” says I.

“F-fix the boats,” says Mark. “Got to have the n-navy in shape. Can’t
tell when war’ll b-bust out, and we can’t have an enemy landin’ on our
coast. I calc’late we better have two dreadnoughts in tip-top fightin’
condition.”

We all went over to the boat-house. In it were a dozen clinker-bottomed
rowboats, a couple of flat bottoms, and, bottom-up on two saw-horses,
was the prettiest cedar canoe you ever saw.

“T-torpedo-boat destroyer,” says Mark. “Have that to g-guard the fishin’
fleet and carry messages.”

We went at it like nailers. Anybody who thinks it isn’t some job to fix
up a boat so it won’t leak just wants to try it once. We painted and
calked and messed around all day, and then had only two boats in
shape—not counting the canoe. We went at that first and gave it a thick
coat of paint.

“May need it any m-minute,” says Mark. “Best to be on the safe side.”

At noon we knocked off and did a good business-like job of eating. We
ate so much it made us sleepy, so we strung out under a tree to take a
little nap. I woke up all of a sudden with the queerest feeling! It was
just as if somebody had been bending over, looking at me close and I had
felt his breath in my face. I jumped up and looked all around me. Not a
thing was in sight. I happened to look down at the grass, and right
under my eyes a couple of blades moved, first one and then the other.
You’ve seen grass straighten up after you’ve stepped on it. Well, that’s
just how this grass acted—exactly as if somebody had stepped there a
minute before.

“Mark,” says I, cautious-like.

He sat up quickly.

“Somebody’s been here looking us over.”

“H-how do you know?” says he.

I told him about the feeling I had and about the way the grass
straightened up.

“Hum!” says he. “Can’t understand it. Who’d be so interested in us, eh?
Who in the world could be p-p-prowlin’ around this old hotel? ’Tain’t
natural. If this thing keeps on I’m goin’ to look into it.”

“You’d better look into it, anyhow,” says I. “I don’t like it. I don’t
like havin’ folks parade around where I’m sleepin’, and I don’t like
havin’ ’em lean over and blow in my face. ’Tain’t _safe_.”

“Shucks!” says Mark, but you could see he was put out and worried by the
way he reached for his ear and began to jerk it. He always did that when
he was bothered and couldn’t make head or tail to things.

The other fellows waked up while we were arguing, and we traipsed off to
work again. Just in front of the hotel, where the grass was long, Mark
stumbled. Then he stopped and leaned over to pick up something. Leaning
over is one of the hardest things Mark does—there’s so much of him he
gets in his own way in front. He grunted like everything and stood up
with what looked like a bone in his hand.

“Huh!” says he, and looks at me with a queer kind of expression. “Huh!”

“What is it?” says I.

He held it out. It wasn’t a bone at all, though it looked like it was
made of bone. It was pure white except that at one end, where there was
something that looked like a handle, there were figures and funny
curlicues carved, and down the whole length of it was a row of things
that looked like the Hebrew letters in our family Bible.

“What do you calc’late it is?” says I, taking hold of it.

Mark had one end in his hand, and I had hold of the thing that looked
like a handle. It was a handle. When I pulled it moved toward me, and
there I stood with the most peculiar-looking knife in my hand that you
ever saw. It had a straight blade more than ten inches long, and on the
blade, which was new and shiny and polished, were more funny-looking
letters.

I dropped it like it was hot.

“It’s a dagger,” says I, and I guess my voice sounded scairt.

“S-somethin’ like that,” says Mark.

“Maybe,” says Binney, looking over my shoulder, “it’s an Indian relic.
Maybe it’s been layin’ here for a hundred years.”

“Sure,” says Mark, scornful as anything. “That’s how it got so rusty and
battered up. Probably laid in that identical spot since George
Washington discovered the Mississippi.”

“He never discovered the Mississippi,” says Binney.

“He did just as much as that knife is an Indian relic,” says Mark. “Look
at it. S-shiny, ain’t it? Polished, eh? Been taken care of. That knife
hain’t laid there but a few hours. Heavy dew here, ain’t there? Would
’a’ rusted it some in no time. No, sir, whoever dropped that did it last
night or to-day.”

“Looks like one of them souven_eers_ you could buy to the World’s Fair,”
says Plunk.

“This ain’t a s-souvenir,” says Mark; “it’s the real thing. I’ve seen
those knives and swords and things from Turkey and Persia and such
p-places, but they’re cheap. Jest made to sell to folks. This ain’t
cheap. It’s the real thing, I tell you.”

“What do you calc’late it is? Turk or what?”

“Can’t t-tell. Some such race owned it. Come from Asia or Africa, that’s
sure.”

“Well,” says I, “I hope the feller that dropped it hain’t got another.
I’d feel safer a lot if I knew he was just out of knives like this and
couldn’t get any more.”

“Me, too,” says Plunk.

“I wonder how a man in these parts came by a dagger from Asia,” says
Binney.

“We d-don’t know,” says Mark, “that it _is_ a man from these p-parts.
Maybe it’s a man from Asia.”

“’Tain’t likely,” says I.

“’Tain’t likely a man from here would have such a weapon,” says Mark,
“and ’tain’t likely anybody’d be prowlin’ around this hotel, and ’tain’t
likely anybody’d be bendin’ over Tallow when he was asleep—but s-s-some
of those things are facts, ain’t they? Well? _I’ll_ bet that if there’s
a d-d-dagger from Asia here there’s a man from Asia with it.”

“And an animal from Asia, too?” I asked, because there was some kind of
a beast with whoever was skulking around last night.

“I wouldn’t be s’prised to s-s-see a two-humped camel off of the Desert
of Sahara,” says Mark.

“It wasn’t a camel,” I says. “It was too little.”

“It don’t matter if it was the old crocodile of the Nile,” says Plunk,
“we’ve got to finish up those boats.”

So we took along the dagger and crossed the little bridge to the
boat-house. Mark put the dagger on a shelf just inside the door, and we
all rolled up our sleeves and went to work.

“I wish I knew what it was,” Binney said, after a while.

“You don’t d-d-differ much from the rest of us on that point,” says
Mark.

“Then,” says Binney, “why don’t you figger out a scheme to discover?”

Mark grinned. He liked to be appreciated. You’ll notice Binney didn’t
ask me nor Plunk to think up a scheme. No, sir, it was Mark he asked.
And Mark was pleased. He wasn’t the least bit swell-headed, but he did
like to have credit for what he did and for the kind of brains he had.
He deserved it, too. I don’t suppose there are a dozen boys in the
United States with just the kind of planning, scheming brain that Mark
Tidd has. He’s always scheming. Just give him something to plot over and
he’s happy. If there isn’t anything for him to plan about really he’ll
imagine something. Funniest fellow you ever saw.

“Suppose,” says Mark, “this was a castle—the whole hotel. And suppose we
was the g-g-garrison. Along comes an army of knights and men-at-arms to
capture us.” All of a sudden he got interested, his little eyes began to
shine, and his fingers sort of twitched. His imagination was going.
“Listen,” says he, “don’t you hear a trumpet off in the m-m-mountains?
Sure. They’re a-comin’. What’ll we do?”

“Fight,” says Plunk.

“Sure,” says Mark, “but we got to have a plan of b-b-battle. We’ve got
food and water to think of.”

“Plenty of both,” says I.

“Suppose the castle over there was s-s-surrounded. We’d have food, but
we couldn’t g-get to water. I’ll tell you: we’d b-better fetch a store
of food over here across the bridge. Then if it got too hot for us in
the castle we could retreat and tear down the bridge and be pretty
s-s-safe here. Eh?”

“Sure,” says Binney.

“Come on, then,” says Mark. “We’ll divide the stores and f-fetch half
over here in case of emergency.”

Of course it was all just pretending, but it seemed mighty real with
Mark telling it, and before we knew it we were all working like nailers
to get the canned stuff across into the house where the boats were. It
was heavy lifting, but somehow it was fun and as exciting as if hostile
men-at-arms were actually coming down out of the mountains to attack us.

We got everything all arranged and sat down to rest.

“They can attack now any time they w-want to,” says Mark. “We’re ready
for ’em.”

“Huh!” says Plunk, “it looks like we did a lot of work for nothin’. It’s
all right to pretend, but here we’ve up and lugged about a ton of grub
over here where we don’t want it.”

It did look as if Plunk was right, but now I come to think it over I
don’t know just how much Mark was pretending, and how much he was
carrying out a plan he had in his head, and took that way to do it
without getting the rest of us frightened. Mark always took the easiest
and best and safest way to do things. Before we got away from Lake
Ravona we were mighty glad Mark pretended we were going to be attacked
that day, I can tell you, and we were mighty thankful he moved all that
store of food across to the building on the island. If he hadn’t done
that I don’t know how we would have come out, but, anyhow, we’d have had
a pretty hard time of it, and a close shave.

“Now,” says Mark, “l-lets get back to mending the navy.”

I got up and stretched, and looked over toward the door. I happened to
remember that Mark had left the dagger on a shelf right alongside the
door, and without thinking I looked for it.

“Mark,” says I, startled, “did you take the dagger?”

“No,” says he, quick-like. “Why?”

“Look where you put it,” says I.

Everybody looked. The dagger was gone. Yes, sir. It was gone right from
in under our very eyes. Whoever was infesting the hotel had sneaked
right up to us and got his weapon in broad daylight. It made us feel
pretty cheap—and not very comfortable.

“Fine!” says Mark. “Next t-t-time I capture the enemy’s weapons I guess
I’ll know enough to keep them s-s-safe.”

You see he took the blame himself. That was his way, too. He wanted
praise when it was due, but he never dodged the blame when blame was
coming.

But taking the blame didn’t mend matters. The dagger was gone. Worse
than that, we knew the man who took it was near. Probably he was
watching us that very minute. We drew closer together and looked all
around. We went outside and looked, but everything was silent and
deserted as if we were the only people on the earth.

“It’s ten miles to town,” says Binney.

“Well,” says Mark, “we’ve l-l-looked after ourselves before, and I guess
we can m-manage it this time.”

But, for all that, there were four boys there on that little mountain
lake who had their hearts right in their mouths ready to bite them.



                               CHAPTER IV


“He knows we’ve stored our food over here,” says Plunk.

Mark shrugged his shoulders. “If that was all I had to w-worry about,”
says he, “I’d start whistlin’ a tune.”

He walked to the door and stood looking out for quite a while. Finally
he turned around and asked if anybody had seen a strong rope lying
about.

“There’s a big coil of half-inch rope up-stairs,” says I, “and a pulley
alongside of it.”

“F-f-fetch it down,” says Mark.

It took two of us to carry it, and when we got down with it we saw Mark
outside staring at the little bridge. We stared, too. It was about two
feet wide, and maybe twenty feet long, all in one span. The far end of
it connected with a board sidewalk just as it did on our end.

“Fetch a saw,” says Mark.

Binney found one inside and Mark began sawing in two the timbers at the
far end. He stopped and motioned to us.

“Scatter around and keep m-moving,” says he. “Go as if you were
l-looking for something. I want to chase away Mr. Mysterious Visitor so
he can’t see what I’m doin’.”

I was curious to know what he was up to myself, but all the same I
hurried off with the others and we scurried all over that side of the
lake. We ran here and there and up and down and sideways. If there was
anybody around I’ll bet we kept him moving so busy he didn’t have much
time to see what Mark Tidd was up to. In about an hour Mark whistled our
whistle which meant to come back, and back we went.

At first it didn’t look as if he’d been doing anything, but when I came
to look close I saw he had cut through the timbers of the bridge on the
shore end, and had driven a big staple in on each side. On the island
end of the bridge he had cut through the timbers just the same, but had
hitched them together again with a couple of whopping old hinges. I
couldn’t see any sense to it. Mark grinned and pointed up. There, to one
of the timbers supporting a balcony, was attached the pulley with the
rope running through.

“See?” says he.

“No,” says I.

“D-drawbridge,” says he. “Every citadel has ’em. In case of attack we
hitch the rope to the staples on the other end of the b-b-bridge and
yank. Up comes the bridge. There’s t-twenty feet of water, and deep
water, too, between us and the enemy.”

“We won’t ever be able to lift it,” says I.

“I calc’late we will,” says he. “Got it r-rigged so we could.”

He took us up-stairs to the balcony and showed us how he had made a
weight of an old piece of iron pipe. When we wanted to pull up the
bridge all we had to do was hook it to a loop in the rope and drop it
off the balcony. Mark said it was heavy enough to lift the bridge alone,
but that if we were in a hurry we could pull too and yank her up in
jiffy.

“And now,” says he, “l-let’s eat.”

The rest of us were willing enough, and while I built a fire the others
went to peeling potatoes and one thing and another. We had flapjacks,
too. Mark had learned how to fry them in a pan and flip them over in the
air just like a regular camp cook. Whee! but they were good. We ate till
there wasn’t even a streak of batter in the bottom of the dish.

“Where do we sleep?” Binney wanted to know.

“S-same place,” says Mark.

“Goin’ to set watches?”

“Sure.”

We went to bed in the dark again, for we hadn’t been able to get any
lights. Mark took the first watch. Not a thing happened, he told me when
he woke me up. My watch was just the same—not even a suspicious sound,
and it was the same with Plunk and Binney. All that night the fellow who
owned the Turk dagger, if that’s what it was, gave us a rest. It made me
sort of hope he’d gone away.

“We’ve got to begin thinking about Mr. Ames’s fish,” says Mark in the
morning. “Two of us better fish till noon, while the other two watch
camp.”

“We’ll draw straws,” says Plunk.

We did, and Mark and I were the ones to fish. We took one of the
clinker-bottomed rowboats, though the paint wasn’t quite dry. It didn’t
leak much. Each of us took an oar and we trolled with two lines. First
we made a sweep down the far side of the lake, and inside of twenty
minutes I’d landed a three-pound bass and Mark was fighting with a
pickerel that weighed four pounds and a quarter when we got him into the
boat. For ten minutes the fish let us alone; then Mark hitched on to a
regular old sockdolager of a bass, and, after a quarter of an hour of
about as busy fishing as anybody ever did, we got him into the boat. He
weighed just short of five pounds. Mark dropped a lead sinker down his
throat to give him a little more heft, and weighed him again.

“Guess we made a m-mistake first time,” says he. “Look! He weighs f-five
pounds and an ounce.”

“That’s right,” says I. “Gives Plunk and Binney a mark to shoot at.
Five-pound bass ain’t biting every hook that dangles in the water.”

“Calc’late we got about enough fish, eh?”

“Enough to pay Mr. Ames and more’n we can eat besides.”

“Then,” says he, “l-let’s take a look around.”

We rowed about a mile down the lake toward the road and got out.

“Wonder if anybody ever passes here,” I says. “Let’s wait and see.”

The road didn’t look like it was traveled over as much as Main Street in
Wicksville, and I didn’t very much expect to see anybody unless we
waited all day. But Mark liked the idea of trying, so we hid among the
underbrush and pretended we were a scouting-party from the castle. We
talked in whispers and were pretty cautious, I can tell you, for Mark
said that part of the country was swarming with foraging parties of the
enemy. He said they’d either shut us up in a dungeon fifty feet deep or
else sell us into slavery in a far country if we got caught.

We laid there half an hour, maybe, and were just about ready to give it
up, when Mark shoved his elbow into my ribs and says hush in my ear. I
listened. Sure enough, I could hear somebody shuffling along the road.
We held our breaths and waited. In a minute a man came in sight. He was
a short man, and looked sort of funny even at a distance. Somehow he
didn’t look American. When he got closer we saw he wasn’t American, but
some sort of a foreigner. He didn’t look like he was used to wearing
American clothes, for they didn’t set natural on him. About ten feet
behind him came another man that looked enough like him to be his twin
brother. They were sort of dark, but I knew right off they weren’t
Indians, and their eyes were black and different from any eyes I’d ever
seen. I wondered what country they could have come from.

They didn’t say a word, but just mogged along as if they’d been walking
a long ways and had quite a ways to go yet. When they were out of sight
I whispered to Mark:

“Italians, d’you think?”

“No,” says he, thoughtful-like.

“Not Indians,” says I.

“No,” says he.

“What then?” says I.

“Can’t quite make out. Did you notice their eyes?”

“Yes,” says I.

“Sort of s-s-slantin’, wasn’t they?”

“Yes,” says I.

“What race has slantin’ eyes?”

“The Chinee,” says I.

“Yes,” says he, “but the Chinee have pigtails.”

“Maybe these have under their hats.”

“No,” says he. “I n-n-noticed when one of ’em took his hat off. I
calc’late,” says he, “that those men were from Asia all right, but not
from China. My guess is they were Japanese.”

Well, sir, I remembered some pictures in a book home—one of these travel
books—and those men did look just like Japanese. I guessed Mark was
right.

“But what would Japanese be doing way up here in the mountains?” says I.

He shook his head. “More’n I can guess.... Just like it’s more’n I can
guess what a dagger from Asia or Africa would be getting lost near our
hotel for.”

I can tell you that startled me. I hadn’t seen any connection between
the two men we saw and the dagger, but right off I began to think there
might be some.

“But that dagger was Turk or somethin’,” says I.

“I dun’no’,” says he. “It was from Asia, all right, but it might as well
be from Japan as anywhere else, so f-f-far’s I can see.”

That was so.

“Do you suppose those Japanese men were the ones that were monkeying
around the hotel?”

“No,” says Mark. “I don’t believe there was but one man in the hotel.
Those two l-l-looked like they came from a long ways off to-day.”

“I wonder if they work around here?”

“D-don’t believe it. Somehow Japanese don’t fit into the scenery here.
Let’s follow after those f-fellows a ways.”

I was willing, so, cautious as Indians, we trailed after the two
Japanese. It was better than pretending we were scouts. There was
excitement about it, for we didn’t know what those men might do if they
discovered we were spying on them. Yes, sir, it was better than any
game. I guess doing the real thing is always better than playing you’re
doing it, just the same as eating ice-cream is a lot more fun than
pretending you are.

They walked pretty fast, and never looked around, but for all that we
didn’t take any chances. Always we kept close to the side of the road so
we could duck into the bushes if they showed signs of being suspicious,
and as much as we could we kept just around a turn of the road from
them. That was pretty easy, because the road was as full of turns as a
pretzel.

We’d followed them maybe twenty minutes when I saw the first one stop
and hold up his hand. The other one stopped, too. Then, so quick you
could hardly follow them, they dived into the bushes.

“Huh!” says I. “Funny way to be actin’.”

Mark didn’t say anything, but gave me a shove over the ditch into the
underbrush.

“They heard something comin’,” says he, “and d-ducked because they
didn’t want to be seen. Now I know they don’t work around here, and I’m
pretty sure they came here for some purpose. They don’t want folks to
know they’re here, that’s what’s the matter with them. They know folks
in this part of the country would get curious if they saw a couple of
Japanese wanderin’ about.”

“I wish,” says I, “that I could get that dagger out of my head. It ain’t
a pleasant thing to think about when you’re out here in the woods with
two full-grown Japanese a-hidin’ close by.”

Mark grinned a little. “We figgered on a n-n-nice, quiet summer,” says
he.

“Looks like we weren’t the kind of folks that get quiet summers,” says
I. “We hain’t had one lately.”

In five minutes a rickety old farm-wagon came along. It was what scared
the Japanese out of the road, all right. We didn’t show ourselves. It
went banging past, and, as soon as it was safe, we poked out our heads.
The Japanese weren’t in sight. We waited, but they didn’t come. We
waited some more, and some more after that, but not another sign did we
see of them. It didn’t give you a pleasant feeling, I can tell you. We
didn’t know where they might be sneaking in the woods behind us.

“I’m goin’ back to the boat,” says I, “and I’m goin’ to row out into the
middle of the lake. It’s safe there. Nobody can crawl up on you when you
ain’t lookin’.”

Mark grinned again. “That s-s-sounds good to me,” says he. “I’ve got a
creepy feelin’ at the back of my neck myself.”



                               CHAPTER V


We got home with our fish just as Plunk and Binney were getting ready to
eat. They had cooked dinner and waited for us until they couldn’t stand
it any longer. Mark and I were perfectly ready to begin, too.

After lunch we made a live-box to keep our fish in. It wasn’t a
first-class live-box, but it was enough to keep the fish from getting
away. We made it by piling stones in the water close to the kitchen
door, and when it was done we took our fish off the string and dumped
them in. One was dead and one wasn’t very lively, but the others seemed
as good as new. We skinned the dead one and the poorly one and rubbed
salt on them to have for supper. Binney and Plunk pretty nearly let
their eyes pop out when they saw Mark’s big bass.

“Guess that’ll pay our rent for a week to Mr. Ames,” says Plunk.

“Hope he’ll enjoy eatin’ it as m-m-much as I did catchin’ it,” says
Mark.

“What’ll we do this afternoon?” Plunk wanted to know.

Mark wrinkled up his nose and squinted. “Seems to me,” says he, “that we
d-d-don’t know as much about this hotel as we ought to. L-let’s explore
it from cellar to garret. If anybody’s got a hidin’-place here we want
to find out about it.”

That did seem like common sense, so we all turned around and went into
the office. From there we climbed the main stairs to the second floor
and then to the third floor.

Well, sir, we went through every room on that floor, and every room on
the second floor and every room on the first floor, and from one to the
other of the basement, and not a sign did we see of anybody. More than
that, we didn’t see anything to show that anybody had been there for
half a dozen years. There was plenty of dirt and rubbish and cobwebs,
but that was all. It made you feel sort of spooky, especially when you
_knew_ somebody had been there, and most likely had been _living_ there
some place for goodness knows how long. Mark Tidd looked pretty glum.
Somehow, not finding anything seemed to upset him more than as if we had
run on to something we didn’t want to find. He didn’t say a word, but
just walked off to a corner of the porch and sat down. Pretty soon he
began to whittle, and we knew that something would be happening shortly.
Whittling is about the last resort for Mark Tidd. When everything else
fails he sits down and whittles. Let him whittle for half an hour, and
you can bet something will come of it.

While he was whittling I walked over to take a look at the big fish in
the live-box. I could see the smaller ones, but the whopper wasn’t in
sight. At first I thought he was hiding in the shadow or had wedged in
among the stones, but after I poked around with a stick and couldn’t
make him budge I began to get frightened. Frightened is the right word,
and you would know it was if you had a five-pound small-mouthed black
bass and it looked as if he had escaped.

I got down flat and looked as hard as I could, but Mr. Bass was gone.
There wasn’t a doubt of it.

“Fellows!” I yelled.

Something in my voice told them that everything wasn’t going as it ought
to, and they came running, even Mark Tidd.

“What’s the m-m-matter?” he puffed.

“Big bass got away,” says I.

Mark scowled and shook his head. “Couldn’t get away,” says he. “No
f-f-fish could get out of that live-box.”

“A fish did get out of it,” says I, sort of provoked at him, “and if a
fish did get out that proves a fish could get out, doesn’t it?”

“Huh!” he grunted, and began looking careful all around the place. In a
minute he stood up, and there was the funniest, most startled,
hit-all-in-a-heap expression on his face that you ever saw. He held
something up between his thumb and finger. It was a silver dollar.

“S-sure,” says he in a minute, “the f-fish got out, Tallow. He got out
and l-left this dollar to pay his board. Nice fish, wasn’t he, eh?
Because a f-fish _did_ leave a dollar proves a fish can l-leave a
dollar, eh? Good argument, Tallow.”

“Some of us dropped it,” says I.

“I didn’t have a silver dollar,” says Binney.

“Neither did I,” says Plunk.

“Nor me,” says Mark.

Well, that left it up to me. I did have a silver dollar—just one—and I
felt in my pocket for it. It was there.

“I’ve heard of the goose that l-l-laid the golden egg, but I never heard
tell of a bass that laid a s-silver dollar,” says Mark.

“I don’t b’lieve, and nobody’s goin’ to make me b’lieve, that fish left
a dollar,” says Plunk, who didn’t always see a joke as quick as he ought
to.

“But there’s the dollar to prove it,” says Mark, without a smile. “And
he l-left it on purpose, ’cause it was wedged in and held there by a
l-little stick. The bass must ’a’ got out on land and f-f-fixed it up
that way so we wouldn’t miss findin’ it.”

“All I got to say,” says Plunk, with a mighty solemn expression, “is
that if fish in this lake can leave silver dollars behind ’em, I hain’t
goin’ to do a thing but fish from now on.”

“Good idee,” says Mark, “but I calc’late nothin’ but five-pound bass can
do the trick. And five-pound bass hain’t very thick. Might try it,
though, Plunk.”

“What do you make of it, Mark?” says I.

Mark was still peering around, examining the place as close as if he
expected to find some more dollars. He got down on all-fours and looked
at the ground, and then he sat back sort of contented-looking and
self-satisfied.

“The b-bass was taken by somebody that wasn’t very big—smaller than
Binney, I should say, but heavier. He probably needed somethin’ to eat.
He was afraid of b-bein’ seen, so he couldn’t _ask_ for it, so he took
it, and, bein’ honest, left what he thought the f-fish was worth to pay
for it.”

“Hum!” says I, sarcastic-like. “What color were his eyes?”

“Black,” says Mark, as quick as a wink, “and he carried a club with a
knob on the end of it.”

“Yes,” says I, sarcastic again, “and he had two arms and two legs and
parted his hair on the left side.”

“If you ever see him,” says Mark, “you’ll f-f-find out he doesn’t part
his hair at all.”

“Rats!” says I.

Mark just grinned as provoking as could be. “If you’d use your eyes,
Tallow, you wouldn’t n-need to be told so much. L-look here.” He pointed
to a footprint in the mud. “Little, hain’t it? Smaller ’n Binney’s.
Here, Binney, step alongside.”

[Illustration: “THE B-BASS WAS TAKEN BY SOMEBODY THAT WASN’T VERY BIG”]

Binney did and his foot was half an inch longer than the mark in the
mud.

“And l-look here. Here’s where he knelt down. Here’s his toe and here’s
his knee. See how far apart they are. Whoever left the mark was some
shorter ’n Binney. And the club. Right here you can see the mark of it
with his hand gripped around its middle. Knob on one end, hain’t there?”

Mark grinned at me malicious-like and I guess I looked sheepish. That
was what I got for making fun of him. I might have known he wasn’t
guessing.

“How’d you know his eyes were black and that he didn’t part his hair?”
says Binney.

“I don’t _know_ that, but I’m willin’ to b-bet a cooky I’m right.”

“Well,” says Plunk, “if he’s smaller’n Binney I dun’no’s I’m so
all-fired afraid as I was a spell back.”

“Maybe,” says Mark, “he’s one of those savage African dwarfs and he’s
got his war-club. How about that, eh? Like to meet one of those dwarfs,
Plunk?”

Plunk looked blank for a minute, but this time he got it through his
head that Mark was joking, and said ha-ha sort of weak and
doubtful-like.

“Tallow,” says Mark, “the f-fact that a fish is gone don’t prove
anything but that a fish is gone. Remember that. It may come in handy.”

“And _you_ remember,” says I, “that every time you see a summer hotel
advertised it doesn’t mean that the hotel is still running.” It was the
best I could think of just then, and if I do say it I think it was
pretty fair. Mark thought so too, I guess, for he says:

“You’ve got me there, Tallow, so we’ll call it quits.”

We walked around to the front of the hotel and sat down on the porch.
Mark was tossing the dollar up and catching it, and all of us were
thinking about it, I expect.

“I guess we’ll have to lock everything up if we want to keep it,” says
Plunk.

“It’ll be better to l-l-lock up the fellow that’s doing the sneakin’,”
says Mark.

“’Tain’t so easy,” says I. “If he ain’t easy to _see_ I don’t guess
he’ll be easy to catch.”

“And,” says Binney, “it might not be so much fun catchin’ him—with his
club and that big dagger.”

“That sounds sensible,” says I. “Let’s try to get a look at him before
we do anything else. Then—maybe we’ll want to move.”

“_Move!_” says Mark Tidd, his forehead getting wrinkled and his jaw
shoving out. “You can d-do as you want to about that, but I _stay_.
We’ve a right to be here. The other fellow hasn’t any right. I d-don’t
care if he’s b-b-big as a house and savage as a Hot-Hot-Hot—” He
stuttered over that word and just _couldn’t_ get it out.

“Hot cross bun,” says I.

Mark paid no attention, but went on stuttering,
“Hot-Hot-Hotten-tut-tut-tot.”

“And that’s the way we spell Hottentot,” says I.

“I’m here,” Mark says, “and I’m goin’ to stay. We’ve a _right_ to be
here.”

When it came to standing up for his rights Mark Tidd was the stubbornest
boy that ever was. He just set like concrete, and the only way to move
him was to blast him away. I suppose that’s the way to be. The
Revolution was fought by men who were stubborn about standing up for
their rights, but I’ve noticed that’s the kind of fellow who wears a
black eye oftenest and has most lawsuits. Personally I’m for _conceding_
a little before I get into a rumpus.

“But,” says Mark, “I’m as anxious to get a peek at our visitor as you
are.”

“Only fair,” says I. “Trade him peek for peek. He’s peeked at us often
enough.”

“Probably he’s peekin’ at us now,” says Binney. But as it turned out, he
wasn’t—not just then.



                               CHAPTER VI


“When’ll Mr. Ames be out?” Plunk asked.

“Let’s see,” says I, “this is the second day we’ve been here. It’ll be
five or six days before we can expect to see him.”

“So,” says Mark, “you’ve either got to s-s-stick it out till then or
walk to town.”

Plunk sort of flushed. “I wasn’t thinkin’ about gettin’ to town,” says
he. “I was hopin’ he’d remember to fetch a lantern or somethin’ to give
us a little light.”

“Send him a wireless,” says Binney.

“Or—” Mark began, but he never finished what he was going to say, for
the biggest sort of a barking and snarling and yelping started up in the
woods not farther off than you could throw a stone, and all of a sudden
something flashed out of the underbrush and came scurrying toward the
hotel. We all jumped to our feet.

Then something else burst out of the trees and tore after the first
thing that came. By that time we had sort of collected our senses and
could tell what was going on. It was a big, black dog chasing some
littler animal that seemed to bump and waddle and roll along, but made a
pretty fast gait at that. The dog was barking as hard as he could bark.

About fifty feet from us he caught up with the little animal and made a
jump for it. Well, sir, you never saw anything so funny in your life.
The dog no sooner touched the little animal than he sat right back on
his haunches like he was too astonished to live, and let out the
dismalest howl you ever heard. _Yip-yip-yi!_ he yelled. The little
animal didn’t run any more, but kind of curled up and waited. We went
running over to see the fight.

“What is it?” says Binney.

“Porcupine,” says Mark.

He was, and a fat old whopper, too, with enough quills on him to satisfy
a dozen dogs. But this dog wasn’t satisfied. After he got over his
surprise he seemed to get mad, and in he tore again. I expect he figured
the porcupine had hurt him by mistake. But he found out different. Mr.
Porcupine sort of humped up his back and you could hear his quills
rustle. Mr. Dog shoved his nose into them—and then pulled it out quick.

He was one disgusted dog, and I’m telling you that something besides his
feelings were hurt. He looked as if he were trying to grow some funny
sort of mustache. At first he didn’t know what to make of it; then he
sat back and began to paw at his muzzle. He pawed and pawed, and when he
found out pawing didn’t do any good he took to rolling, and while he
rolled he yipped and yelled. All of a sudden he remembered his dignity
and stood up. For a minute he looked at Mr. Porcupine, and all his mad
came back. It got the better of his good sense. He didn’t seem to
realize that the time had come to arbitrate, so he took another lick at
the porcupine, who was just beginning to move off as if it figured its
day’s work was done.

This time the dog stuck to it as long as he could, but that wasn’t very
long, and when he backed off he did it with his whole heart. He backed
off so hard that he sat right up on his tail for a minute and then
rolled over backward. If he could have seen himself he’d have been so
ashamed he wouldn’t have shown his face for a week, like proud dogs do
when something makes them look ridiculous.

He started running around on three legs and pawing at his nose with the
leg that was left. Then he stuck his muzzle against the ground and began
to spin around it in a circle like he was trying to _scour_ the quills
out. But anybody could see he was having hard luck at it. Mr. Porcupine
looked over his shoulder like he wasn’t so very much interested, and for
all the world he looked like he was grinning. Then he started to move
off slow. This time the dog jumped right on him with all four feet—and
from that time on you never heard such squawling in all your born days.
We were sorry for him. Anybody would have been, but he was so funny,
and, while he thrashed around so there wasn’t a thing we could do. So we
just stood there and laughed.

But in a minute we stopped laughing, stopped sudden, too, I can tell
you, for there, standing between us and the dog—almost like he had
dropped out of the sky—was a boy. We had been so busy watching the dog
and porcupine we hadn’t seen him come or which way he came from. The
first we knew there he stood with his arms folded, scowling at us.

He wasn’t as tall as Binney, but he was broader. He looked strong—and
for all his size, he looked sort of, well, I guess _stately_ is the only
word to describe it. He was foreign. His skin was dark, and his eyes
were black, and his hair was black and straight—and it wasn’t parted. I
wondered how Mark Tidd had figured _that_ out. He was angry, but for all
of that, and for all his color and his foreign look, he was handsome. He
stood there looking at us for a moment like he was making up his mind
what to do with us. Then he said in just as good English as any of us
could speak, only more careful, and sounding, somehow, as if he had to
remember and take pains to find the words:

“You have hurt my dog. How dare you hurt my dog?”

The way he spoke made you sort of jump.

“It was the p-p-porcupine,” says Mark, pointing to where the little
animal was scurrying away. “Your dog chased it and got quills in his
nose. We haven’t touched him.”

“You laughed at him when he was hurt.”

“Yes, and you’d have l-laughed, too. He isn’t hurt much. The quills will
come out easy, and in a day or two he’ll be as well as ever—and have a
l-lot more sense. He’ll know better than to tackle another p-porcupine.”

The boy looked at us, right in the eyes, without speaking for a couple
of minutes. I don’t remember ever to have had anybody look at me just
like that. It was a sort of judge-of-the-supreme-court look.

“What are you doing here?” he says, when he got through looking us over.

Mark Tidd grinned that jolly grin of his, the grin he gets on when he
wants to make friends or be particularly agreeable.

“Seems to me,” says he, “it’s up t-to you to t-t-tell us what _you_ are
d-d-doin’ here.” He was a little excited and stuttered like everything.

The boy looked puzzled. “Why do you speak like that?” he says. “I have
not before heard English spoken that way.”

Mark looked sort of taken back, and the rest of us laughed right out.
The boy drew himself toward us and clenched his fists.

“You laugh at me,” he said, taking a step toward us.

“No,” says I, “we were laughin’ at Mark Tidd. The joke was on him. He
stutters, you know.”

“Stutters? What is stutters?”

“Why, talks like you heard him. He can’t help it. It’s a sort of—of a
disease,” says I.

Mark got red and turned on me quick. “It ain’t a disease,” says he, “and
if it is it would do you g-g-good to catch it.”

“Never mind that,” says the boy, with a wave of his hand as if it didn’t
matter much, anyhow. “What are you doing here?”

“Havin’ a g-good time,” says Mark. “Not that it’s any of your
b-business. What are _you_ doin’ here? We rent this hotel and p-pay for
it. We’ve got a right to be here. What right have you to be prowlin’
around it?”

The boy stepped forward and spoke angry-like in some foreign language. I
guess he was mad and his English clean got away from him. He stopped of
a sudden and says so we could understand:

“I will show you to speak with more respect—” Then he shut up quick and
acted like he had let out something he didn’t want to, and muttered to
himself in his foreign language again.

“We’re just as respectful to you as you are t-t-to us,” says Mark. “We
d-don’t have to go out of our way to be r-r-respectful to any boy. You
might as well understand that on the start.”

The boy looked surprised. “Are you noble?” says he.

“N-noble?” says Mark, sort of puzzled. Then he grinned. “D’you mean do
we b’long to the nobility? If that’s it I calc’late we’re as noble as
they m-make ’em in these parts. I don’t call to mind anybody that’s
nobler.”

“Yes,” says Binney, “any of us is entitled to be President of the United
States—if we can get elected.”

“Oh,” says the boy. “I did not understand. I ask your pardon. I shall
not again commit the same offense.”

I didn’t quite catch what offense he was talking about, but I guess Mark
did, for he let on that it was all right as far as he was concerned.

“Say,” says Plunk, “what nationality are you, anyway? Injun?”

The boy got so straight his back was like to bust and he looked as proud
as the fellow who stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum.

“I am Samurai,” he said.

“Don’t recollect ever hearin’ of ’em,” says Plunk. “I’ve heard of Sioux
and Pawnee and Iroquois and such, but Cooper nor nobody _I’ve_ read
mentioned Samurai.”

“He m-means Japanese,” says Mark, disgusted-like.

I guessed that myself, and had been wondering if he was the son of one
of the men Mark and I had seen on the road that morning. I was just
going to ask him when I thought I’d better wait and let Mark do the
talking.

“You’re a l-l-long ways from home,” says Mark.

“Yes,” says he, “a long way; a very long way.”

“Alone?” says Mark.

The boy frowned, then he looked sort of undecided and uncomfortable.
Finally he made up his mind to answer. “Yes,” says he, “alone.”

“Did you come way from Japan alone?” Plunk wanted to know.

“There are two ways to deal with a question one does not want to
answer,” says the boy. “One is to lie; the other is to keep silence. I
do not lie.”

“Um!” says I. “Guess that’s bein’ told to mind your own business.”

“For a cent I’d take a punch at him,” Plunk whispered.

“Best leave him alone. He might s’prise you,” says I.

“My name,” says Mark, “is Marcus Aurelius Fortunatus Tidd. My
f-f-friends call me Mark Tidd.”

“And mine,” says the boy, “is—” He stopped a second. “You may call me
Motu,” says he.

“It seems s-sort of funny for a Japanese boy to be up here in the
mountains all alone,” says Mark, and then added, sly-like, “dropping
daggers and taking fish and prowling around at night like he was afraid
of something.”

“I can tell you nothing. I am here because I must be here. Here I must
stay until—until something happens that will let me go away. That is all
I can say.”

“Um!” says Mark Tidd. “Well, Motu, I guess you’ll f-find it more
comfortable sleepin’ in a bed nights than prowlin’ around; and easier
and more f-fillin’ to eat with us than to skirmish up food for yourself.
There’s l-lots of room, and lots of f-f-food.” He stopped for a bit, and
then went on, more polite than I’d ever heard him, and as dignified as
Motu was. “It will give us pleasure to have you as our g-guest.”

Motu’s eyes shone, and he smiled. “I accept,” says he. “You do me a
great kindness. I am a stranger, far from home, and I cannot repay
except with thanks.”

“In this country,” says Mark, “thanks are good money to pay for
hospitality with any time.”

And that’s how we found the fellow who was sneaking around the hotel and
scaring the daylights out of us. It’s how he came to live there with us,
and it’s how we started a friendship with him that got to be one of the
things that we’re proudest of of anything in the world. Besides that,
it’s the reason why things happened to us that weren’t very pleasant
while they were going on, but which were plenty exciting—exciting and
some dangerous. It’s how Mark Tidd got another chance to show what a
head he’s got, and what backbone there is in him—and, I’m glad to say,
it gave the rest of us a little chance too, and we took advantage of it
in a way that we aren’t ashamed of. And in the very end it brought us
something that pretty nearly surprised us to death—something that I
don’t believe ever was had by four boys in the United States.

On the whole, it was a good thing that Motu’s dog chased the porcupine
and caught him—though the dog didn’t think so for a day or two.



                              CHAPTER VII


“Where have you b-been sleepin’, Motu?” Mark asked while we were trying
to catch the dog to operate on him for porcupine quill.

“There,” says Motu, pointing to the hotel.

“But we searched it from one end to the other, and couldn’t find a
thing.”

Motu smiled. “I show you,” he said. “I had a place not easy to find.”

He talked to his dog and after a while got close enough to him to hang
on while we pulled out the quills. The dog yelped some, but we explained
to him that it was necessary, and that he’d be a gone dog if we left him
alone. Somehow that didn’t seem to do him any good, and after we were
through he ran off and hid under the porch.

“Bring the dog from Japan?” Plunk asked.

“No. I found him back there. He was lost. He wanted to stay with me.”

Mark nudged me and whispered. “Good sign. When you f-find anybody a
dog’ll trust like that it’s pretty safe for p-people to trust him too.”

It sort of surprised me the way Motu talked English. I supposed Japanese
and Chinese always talked sort of funny like. “Me find li’l’ dogee back
topside,” or something of that sort, but Motu pronounced his words right
and was that particular about his grammar that it made me sort of
ashamed. So I asked him about it.

“How’d you learn to talk English so good?” I says.

“I have gone to school in England at school they call Eton. Also I am
coming to school in the United States some day—maybe.”

I saw Mark looking at Motu with a queer expression like he was
speculating about something and was surprised and a little excited by
what he figured out.

“I’ll show you where I slept if you like,” says Motu, and we followed
him into the hotel and up to the second floor. Way back at the end of
the hall he took us into a bedroom and then into a closet off the
bedroom. There he got down on his hands and knees and crawled through a
little triangular hole where the rafters showed. We followed him. It
brought us into a little round place with the walls all sloping up to a
point like a clown’s hat. In the middle it was big enough to stand
straight, and there was lots of room to sleep and keep things.

Mark looked around as well as he could in the dim light, for there
wasn’t a window—nothing but a few little holes in the roof.

“I know where we are,” says he, satisfied with himself. “We’re in the
peak of that little t-tower just over the dining-room.”

Motu nodded.

“How’d you ever f-find it?”

“My dog chased a little animal—a rat or a squirrel—into it. I followed
to see where he went. It was a very good place. The sort of place I
needed. Here I have lived.”

“It’s a dandy hidin’-place,” says Mark, kind of meaningly.

“Yes,” says Motu, as calm and cool as ice, but that is all he did say.
There wasn’t a word of explanation about it, or why he wanted to hide,
or what he was afraid of, or anything. It began to look pretty
mysterious to me and I wanted to talk it over with Mark. And there was
that dagger, too. I didn’t see it any place, and Motu didn’t have it
with him. Somehow I wanted to have _it_ located.

“How about that dagger?” I asked right out.

Motu’s teeth showed in a smile. I guess he was remembering how easy he
had sneaked up and got it back from us.

“I have put the little sword in a safe place—where my careless hands
cannot again lose it. I was in despair. I searched, but in vain. Then
from the edge of the woods I saw the fat boy who is called Mark Tidd
pick it from the ground. I was angry—yet I was glad. I knew where the
little sword was, and I knew I should have it again.”

“You might not,” says Plunk, “if we hadn’t left it laying around so
careless.”

“My father put the little sword in my hand. He said, ‘Motu, I give you
this to keep fresh the honor of our family. Let it never pass from your
hands.’ So I would have taken it again, even though it had meant much
fighting.”

It sounded like something out of a book, but I guess it was all right.
Foreigners do odd things, anyway, and to a man that isn’t a foreigner
they act sort of crazy. Maybe they think _we_ act crazy, and I expect if
we were to go to Japan _we’d_ be foreigners, wouldn’t we? It looks like
there was something to be said on both sides of the argument. Anyhow, my
father never talked to me as if he was reciting something out of
Shakespeare’s plays.

Mark began to crawl out of Motu’s hiding-place and we followed after.

“We’ve got p-p-plenty of bedding to fix up a bed for you, Motu,” says
Mark. “Come on and pick out your bedroom.”

“Many thanks. Of the bedding I shall borrow some blankets, but the
bedroom—it is best, I think, that I should sleep where I have slept.”

“L-look here,” says Mark, “if you’re afraid somebody’ll see you—”

Motu held up his hand. “What is best for me I know. If you do not want
me here I will go away.”

“Don’t go gettin’ on your high horse, now. We’re glad to have you, and
we’re not tryin’ to p-p-pry into your business. Sleep where you want
to.”

“It’s too nice a day to waste in the house,” says I. “I’m goin’ outdoors
and find somethin’ to do.”

“Let’s explore,” says Binney.

“Good,” says Mark. “P-pretend we’re the first white men that ever got
here to this lake. We want to settle here, but we dassen’t till we know
the l-lay of the l-l-land. Best way is to divide. One party go one way,
the other party go the other, till we meet. How’s that?”

“Fine,” says I. “Calc’late we’ll meet any savages?”

“It’s Injun country. Most likely they c-come here to fish and hunt. We
want to go pretty cautious.”

“How’ll we divide up?” says Plunk.

“You and Binney together, and Tallow and me. Motu can go with whichever
he wants to.”

“It is not best that I should go,” says Motu. “Here I shall stay until
you come back.”

“All right,” says Mark. “Whatever suits you.”

So we started off. I looked back in a few minutes and Motu was nowhere
to be seen.

“Motu’s ducked,” says I to Mark.

“Yes,” says he. “He’s got some p-pretty good reason for keepin’ out of
sight. He ain’t the kind to be afraid of nothin’. If he’s hidin’ it’s
because there’s somethin’ to hide from.”

“I don’t like the whole business,” says I. “First here’s a Japanese boy
all alone. Where’d he come from and what’s he doin’ here? Next that
boy’s afraid of somethin’. What is it? Then we take him to live with us.
If there’s somethin’ that’s like to hurt him ain’t it just as like to
hurt us? That’s what I want to know.”

“I’m s-sort of wonderin’ myself,” says Mark.

“Maybe he’s just run away from his folks,” says I.

“No,” says he; “it’s somethin’ more serious than that. Maybe these
Japanese have feuds like the Chinamen. It might be that.”

“Yes,” says I, “and it might be that he’s been borrowin’ chickens from
the neighbors without askin’ permission, and he’s sort of bein’ looked
for on account of it.”

“Shucks!” says Mark, disgusted as could be. “You can see for yourself
that Motu isn’t the chicken-stealin’ sort. There’s somethin’ all-fired
interestin’ about him—you’ll see.”

“Hope so,” says I.

Then for a spell we didn’t talk any, but went on through the woods,
being careful to keep under cover on account of hostile Indians. We
didn’t sight any, but Mark saw considerable sign they’d left on their
visits, and came to the conclusion that they used the lake quite a bit
for one thing and another.

Pretty soon he began to sniff. He stopped and pointed his stubby nose
first one way and then the other, and sniffed like all-git-out.

“Tryin’ to play a solo?” says I.

“Be still,” says he, “and smell.”

I started in sniffing as hard as I could. Both of us stood there and
sniffed a duet. Must have sounded sort of funny.

“Well,” says I, “I calc’late I’ve sniffed enough for to-day.”

“Smell anythin’?” says Mark.

“No,” says I.

“Not smoke?” says he.

I started sniffing again, harder than ever. It’s lucky I’ve got a good,
well-constructed nose, or I’d have sniffed it clean off that day. But I
got results. Sure as shooting I could get just the faintest whiff of a
fire somewheres.

“Must be right ahead,” says I. “That’s where the wind’s blowin’ from.”

Mark nodded. “Got to see what it is,” says he. “War p-p-party maybe. We
mustn’t be taken by s’prise. Come on as quiet as you can.”

We got on to our stomachs and wriggled along like a couple of
alligators, though I will say Mark looked more like an armadillo.
Alligators run more to length than to thickness, but Mark ran to _vice
versa_ as you might say. We just inched along, and as we went the smell
of smoke got stronger.

There was a little hummock just ahead with lots of bushes on it. We made
for it, getting our faces and hands nicely scratched up, and went up it
like a couple of snails climbing a roof—if snails ever climb roofs. Mark
was ahead. When he got to the top he flattened down as much as he could,
and it looked to me like he was trying to shove himself right into the
ground. I edged up alongside and looked.

Maybe you think I didn’t crowd the ground a little myself. I’ll bet I
made a dent in it that’s there to this day. For not thirty feet away was
a little fire with two men bending over it cooking something or other.
Their backs were toward us and so we couldn’t see their faces, but we
could tell they were short and broad. One of them had on overalls and a
hickory shirt. The other one wore shabby black pants and a gray flannel
shirt. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t dare even whisper.

We laid there as still as a cat in front of a mouse-hole and watched.
After a while one of the men turned, and we could see his face. It was a
whole lot like Motu’s. A little darker, and not so intelligent or
handsome, but of the same race, all right. Then the other one turned,
and he was a Japanese, too!

They ate what they’d been cooking, and then talked a little in their
funny lingo. After that one of them laid down and shut his eyes, while
the other one sat up with his eyes wide open. It seemed to me I never
saw anybody who kept his eyes open so wide, and I says to myself that
I’d bet his ears were open just as wide as his eyes. He was keeping
guard.

Right off I began to wonder why two Japanese in a friendly country
should think it was necessary to keep watch like that. They must have
had some reason for it.

Mark reached over and touched my leg and then motioned back toward the
hotel. I nodded, and we began to wiggle away feet first like a couple of
crabs. We went pretty slow and careful, I can tell you. I don’t believe
I drew a breath till we had gone a hundred feet, and my heart was
beating so loud I was sure a man could hear it a quarter of a mile away.

We kept on going slow and easy till we were around a little bend in the
lake, and then we legged it for home.

“Same ones we saw on the road,” says I.

“No,” says Mark. “You ought to n-n-notice things more. Those fellows
were dressed different. Both of them had on blue suits. It was another
two.”

“Then there’s four of ’em around,” says I.

“And maybe more,” says he.

“Why do you s’pose they go by twos instead of keepin’ together?”

“Tallow, sometimes I don’t b’lieve you’ve got anythin’ to t-t-think
with. If you was huntin’ the country for somebody or somethin’ would you
go in a crowd, or would you divide up and scour the locality that way,
maybe watchin’ the roads, and that sort of thing?”

“I’d divide up, of course.”

“Well?”

“What’re these fellows lookin’ for?”

“What’s hidin’?”

“Why,” says I, “the only thing I know of that’s hidin’ isn’t a thing,
it’s a boy and it’s name is Motu.”

“Yes,” says he, “and I’ll bet you a c-c-cookie that Motu is why these
fellows are in the woods. They’re boy-huntin’, and Japanese boy at
that.”



                              CHAPTER VIII


“We’d better hunt up Motu and tell him about these men lookin’ for him,”
says I.

“I sort of calc’late from Motu’s actions t-t-that we wouldn’t be
f-fetchin’ him any news,” says Mark.

“He may know,” says I, “that he’s bein’ hunted for, but maybe he don’t
know the hunters are so _warm_.”

“They are tolerable hot,” says Mark, with an uncomfortable grin. “But I
guess so long as Motu wants to mind his own b-business pretty strict,
we’d better do the same. He knows what he’s up to.”

We got back to the hotel in a little while, but nobody else was there.
We looked for Motu all over, but couldn’t find hide or hair of him. I
guess as soon as we got out of sight he went and hid up. But it wasn’t
long before Binney and Plunk came rampaging in, panting like a couple of
grampuses, with their eyes bulging out and talk just spilling out of
them in bunches. They both wanted to talk, and neither of them could
manage it.

“Back there—” says Binney, and stopped to pant.

“We ’most bumped into—” says Plunk, and _he_ stopped to puff.

“Lucky we was goin’ cautious—” Binney says.

“Or,” says Plunk, “nobody knows what—”

“They’d ’a’ got us sure,” says Binney.

“S-sit down,” says Mark, “and breathe a couple of breaths and drink a
dipper of water. Maybe by that time you’ll both _’light_. You’re
f-floppin’ around like scared chickens.”

“You’d be a scared chicken if you’d bumped into what we did,” snapped
Plunk.

“Yes, sir,” says Binney. “Why, before we suspected a thing we almost
_stepped_ on ’em.”

“On who?” says Mark.

“Two of them Japanese,” says Plunk.

“Where?” says I, getting pretty excited myself.

“Sittin’ down back from the road about a mile up,” says Binney.

That made it sure it was two _more_ Japanese. Our two couldn’t have
gotten where Plunk and Binney saw theirs.

“Then there’s four of ’em,” says I.

“Two, I said,” Binney snapped.

Mark grinned, but there wasn’t much _enjoyment_ in that grin. “Don’t
calc’late,” says he, “that you fellows have got any monopoly on seein’
Japanese. We saw a c-c-couple ourselves.”

“What?” Plunked almost yelled.

“Back there,” says I, jerking my thumb over my finger.

“Motu’s friends?” Binney asked.

“If they be,” says I, “he don’t appear anxious to see ’em, does he?”

“Are _they_ why he’s so partic’lar about keepin’ out of sight?” Plunk
asked.

“That’s our guess,” says Mark.

“You think they’re after him?”

“Looks that way.”

“Huh!” says Plunk. “Looks like a lot of trouble to be takin’ for one
boy. S’pose he’s run away from home?”

“He’s run quite a ways,” says Mark, as sarcastic as could be, “and he
must ’a’ s-s-swum the Pacific Ocean on the way. This ain’t any
runnin’-away-from-home scrape. It’s s-s-somethin’ serious, _I’ll_ bet.”

“And _I’ll_ bet,” says Binney, “that I wisht I was back in the State of
Michigan.”

“If there’s four Jap men lookin’ for one Jap boy, and they’re as close
to him as these men are to Motu, it looks a heap like they’d _get_ him,”
says Plunk.

“I ain’t layin’ any claim to him,” says Binney. “I dun’no’ what I’d do
with a Japanese boy if I had him. Them men can have him, for all of me.”

“I guess you said that without doin’ m-m-much thinkin’,” says Mark.
“Just figger if you was in Japan and four Americans that had it in for
you was t-tryin’ to catch you. S’pose you didn’t have any friends and
didn’t know the country. Wouldn’t you be just a _mite_ glad if somebody
was to give you some help? Eh? Wouldn’t you sort of l-l-look at it as
though it was somebody’s _duty_ to help you? Tell me that. What kind of
a country would you think Japan was if nobody l-lifted a finger to help
you? Pretty rotten one, I guess. Well, that’s how Motu’s fixed here.
He’s in a strange country, bein’ chased by men that’ll do somethin’
unpleasant to him, There ain’t n-n-nobody to help him but us. It strikes
me we can’t get out of it if we wanted to, and, for one, I d-don’t want
to. ’Tain’t a United States way of doin’ things. I’m just tellin’ you
that if those men get Motu it’ll be b-because I can’t help it. I’m goin’
to stick to him just like I’d stick to one of you. Then he can’t go back
home and say the United States is no good, and that American boys can’t
be depended on. Now what about it? If you f-feel like pullin’ out, go
ahead. But I’m goin’ to stay, and I’m goin’ to enlist with Motu.”

Nobody said anything for a minute, then Plunk got up and sort of
stretched and felt of his neck and blushed and says, “That goes for me,
too. I’m with Mark.”

“Me, too,” says I.

Binney looked pretty embarrassed. “I guess I didn’t think much before I
spoke,” says he. “I didn’t have it clear in my head. I’m with you, and
Motu can depend on me just as much as on the rest of you.”

“B-bully for you,” says Mark.

Well, sir, something happened then that clean took the wind out of my
sails. It was pretty embarrassing, but, come to look at it now when
everything’s over, it was sort of pleasing and satisfying, too. It was
Motu. He stepped right into the middle of us, and held out his hand to
Mark.

“I heard,” says he, his eyes shining, but his face was calm and
dignified and without any more expression to it than a buckwheat
griddle-cake. I expect it’s the Japanese way not to let your face give
away what you’re thinking about. “What you said to the others I heard,
and what they said in reply to you. It was as Samurai boy should speak,
first for the honor of his country, then for his own honor. You, Mark
Tidd, are Samurai,” he turned to the rest of us, with hands stretched
out, “and you, too, are Samurai. This story shall be told in my land,
not this year alone, but for years to come. It shall be told how four
American boys came to the aid of”—he paused, checked himself, then went
on—“came to the aid of Motu. It shall be made into a song.”

“That’s all r-right,” says Mark, flustered as could be. “Don’t mention
it. You’d be doin’ the s-same for us if we was in your place.”

“I hope I should,” says Motu. “It makes me proud to think I might act as
you have acted.”

“Well, then, let it go at that.”

“There is a danger,” says Motu; “it is _my_ danger, but you offer to
share it. For myself I would not accept, but for—for another reason I do
accept. I can tell you nothing. I cannot tell you why there is a danger.
But I can tell you that there will be no dishonor to you in giving me
help. I have done nothing wrong.”

“Oh,” says Mark, “you didn’t need to say that. We knew it already.”

Motu shot him a look out of his black eyes that was good to see.

“Do you calc’late the four we saw are all there are after you, or can we
expect more of them to come moseying along?”

“I think the four are all. There may be one other.” He said that as if
the one other was a different kind of person from the four, and you can
take it from me as solemn fact, he was. Different! Well, I should say
so. As different as a darning-needle is to a crowbar or a weasel to a
hippopotamus. “There may be one other, but he will think, not act,” says
Motu. “Him we should dread.”

“One of those thinkers, is he?” says I. “Well, I guess we can match him.
Huh! Wait till Mark Tidd gets to playin’ checkers with your thinker, and
we’ll see.”

“Ah,” says Motu, looking at Mark again, this time like he was sort of
weighing him and measuring him. “The one who will come has a cunning
brain. Many plots he has made.”

“If he goes makin’ any plots around here he’ll think he bumped into the
side of a house—and a _brick_ house, at that. Why, Mark Tidd—”

“That’s p-p-plenty from you, Tallow,” says Mark, sort of cross, but I
could tell by his eyes that he was pleased just the same. He likes
compliments, but the ones that tickle him most are the ones about his
head. Mark Tidd would rather think up a great scheme than win the
hundred-yard dash in the Olympic games—and I never could understand it.
I guess it’s because I’m stronger in the legs than inside the skull.

“The Man Who Will Come,” says Binney, pronouncing it impressive, as if
every word commenced with a capital letter. The way he said it made you
sort of worry. The Man Who Will Come! Sounded like a threat. It was a
sort of name. As a matter of fact it got to be a name, and we never
called him anything else, even when we knew what his real name was.

“He’ll make five,” says Plunk. “That’s one apiece. We ain’t outnumbered,
anyhow.”

“They’re men and we’re boys,” says Binney.

Mark was looking at Motu and thinking hard. I could tell that because he
was pinching his ear.

“Motu,” says he, “I want to a-a-ask you just one question. It will make
a d-difference how we act.”

“Ask,” says Motu.

“Will those men h-hurt you? I mean will they—injure you?”

“No,” says Motu. “They will seize me and hold me. I must not be seized
and held. I must be free.”

“All right,” says Mark.

I heard Binney muttering to himself and listened. He was saying over and
over again, “The Man Who Will Come.... The Man Who Will Come....”

“Say,” says I, “quit it. You give me the shivers.”

“If you ’ain’t got enough shivers,” says he, “I’ve got a stock I can
turn over to you without missin’ ’em.”

“Motu,” says Mark, “do you calc’late they know w-w-where you are? Do you
think they know you’re _here_?”

“I do not believe they have found me yet. They have traced me to this
lake, but they do not know I am still here. It was The Man Who Will Come
who traced me. They will find me.”

“But it gives us a little time to p-plan,” says Mark. “If we can keep
you hid for a couple of d-d-days it’ll make a heap of difference.”

“What good’ll a couple of days do? I wish they’d get at it and have it
over with,” says Plunk.

“There’s goin’ to be a siege,” says Mark, “and we got to see that our
castle’s p-provisioned, and the moat full of water and the arms and
armor in shape. They’ll come with batterin’-rams and catapaults to knock
breaches in our walls, and we’ve got to heat p-pitch to pour down on
their heads. Hain’t you ever read about any battles and sieges of
castles like Froissart tells about in his chronicles?” He was off
imagining again, and I knew there wasn’t any use trying to get sense out
of him while he was that way. Might as well try to play checkers with a
bullfrog.

“Motu’s a foreign prince,” says he, “that’s sought our p-p-protection.
His enemies is comin’ for him. They’ve got to tear our castle down about
our ears to g-get him.”

“All right,” says I, “but when those real Japanese without anything
imaginary about them get here I hope you’ll have somethin’ to stop ’em
besides castles that you read about in some book. If it comes to a
rumpus I’d rather have a pile of stones to throw than all the
imagination in the public library.”

Mark sort of squinted at me. “Hold your horses, Tallow. Before we’re out
of the woods you may be m-m-mighty glad I’ve read books, and gladder
that I’ve got an imagination.”

“Maybe so,” says I, pretty dubious, but before we _were_ out of the
woods I got so I agreed with every word Mark said. Without his reading
hitched on to his imagination I guess those Japs would have had Motu and
would have eaten him in a sandwich, for all we could have done to
prevent it. I’ve come to see that imagination’s all right when you can
compress it and shoot it into a cylinder with a piston in it like you do
steam. Mark Tidd was a cylinder built to run on imagination.



                               CHAPTER IX


“The first thing to remember just n-now,” says Mark, “is to act like we
didn’t have any worry. They don’t know Motu’s here. So we’ve got to act
natural and do just like we would do if he wasn’t here at all.”

“As how?” says I.

“Plunk and Binney b-better go fishin’ as soon as supper’s over. Motu’ll
be just keepin’ out of sight. You and I’ll project around here to see
what we can scheme out.”

So we got supper and ate it inside where Motu wouldn’t be seen.
Afterward he went up-stairs, I expect to his hiding-place, and Mark and
I went out on the big front porch. We sat there and talked for a while.
All at once a big rabbit shot out of the bushes with its ears back like
it was planning on making considerable speed. He was coming blind, but I
got up to take a shy at him and he saw me. Well, sir, he was one
flabbergasted rabbit. He stopped and then jumped sideways and then
jumped the other way. For a minute he tried to run four ways at once,
which is a hard thing to do. Then he made up his mind and scooted off
along the shore till he got to a clump of little trees and disappeared.

“Uh!” says Mark.

“What you gruntin’ for?”

“F-funny-actin’ rabbit,” says he. “What d’you calc’late made him come
rushin’ out like that?”

“Somethin’ scared him,” says I.

“Yes,” says he, “and I’ll bet I know what it was. We’re bein’ watched,
Tallow. That rabbit marked the comin’ of the f-f-first Jap.”

“Well?” says I.

“Lucky there’s rabbits,” says he. “When you’re sure you’re b-bein’
watched you can see to it the watcher don’t see anythin’ to be of profit
to him.” He sat pinching his cheek for a couple of minutes. Then he
says: “Tallow, get up and s-s-stretch. Then stroll into the hotel slow
and sneak up to the t-top. Don’t pass any windows. Get as high as you
can over on this side and then take a look down on those bushes there.
From above you may be able to see somethin’.”

I did what he said, and climbed up as near the roof of the hotel as I
could get. Then I crawled over to a window that was facing the way the
rabbit came from and looked down. I couldn’t see anything but trees and
bushes and water, and the brown of the road winding away till it turned
a bend and went out of sight.

But, I’ve noticed, one look doesn’t always show you all there is to see.
Lots of times you need to look twice, and sometimes three looks don’t do
any harm. I kept on squinting away—to see something move. When you look
down like that, on a mass of leaves, you can’t pick out objects. But
just let something move and you have it spotted. So I watched for a
motion. It was fifteen minutes before I saw anything, and then I saw the
top of a bush crowd over and spring back. After that I knew where to
keep my eyes, and you can believe I kept them there good and sharp.
Pretty soon I saw more movement, and in a minute I watched something
dark crawl across a little open patch. It was a man, all right.

I’d seen all I’d been sent to see, so I went on down to Mark and told
him.

“They’d just send one m-man to spy around,” says he.

“I hope he gets an eyeful,” says I.

“Don’t tell Plunk or Binney,” says he. “They might do somethin’
suspicious.”

“Here they come,” says I, and there they did come with a dozen nice
perch for breakfast. I pretended to stick up my nose and says:

“I don’t see any bass. Not a bass. Huh! Well, it makes a heap of
difference who goes fishin’. Some day Mark and I’ll take you along and
show you how it’s done. It’s easy.”

Plunk was mad in a minute. “There ain’t a better fish in the world than
a perch,” says he. “I’d rather eat one perch than a ton of bass.”

“Maybe,” says I, “but would you rather _catch_ ’em?” I had him there,
all right, and he didn’t have another word to say.

“I s’pose you’re goin’ to set a watch to-night,” says Binney.

“Yes,” says Mark, “and we’ll watch in c-c-couples. Tallow and I will sit
up till midnight, and you can come on till mornin’.”

“All right,” says Plunk. “I’m ready to turn in now. Come on, Binney.”

We all went into the hotel and Binney and Plunk went to bed. Mark and I
sneaked up to the top story, where there was a sort of balcony we could
get out on and see as well as it was possible to see in the dark. There
wasn’t much chance for anybody to see us.

Up there we sat and sat, and it got cold. Whee! but it got cold. I had
enough of it.

“I’m willin’ to watch,” I whispered, “but I want to watch warm.
Beginnin’ _now_,” says I, “I watch inside. You can stay here and freeze
if you want to.”

“Maybe it’ll b-b-be a good idea to patrol the hotel,” says Mark.

So we set out stumbling through the long corridors, stopping every
minute or so to peer out of a window. We went through the third floor
and the second floor and most of the first floor. Then we sat down for a
while in the office. It was as dark as pitch and scary enough to suit
anybody. We hadn’t sat there long till Mark touched my arm and said in
my ear, so low I could hardly hear him:

“L-look!”

I looked. There was a round blot against the window. It moved, and I
could see it was a man’s head and he was spying in. I knew he couldn’t
see us in the dark, but for all that it wasn’t the most comfortable
feeling in the world. Pretty soon the head went out of sight, but it
showed up again in another window. Then it disappeared and we could hear
stealthy footsteps on the big porch.

The next thing was a rattle at the doorknob. Then, slow, slow, slow, a
crack at a time, the door began to open. I was shaking all over and my
heart was thumping so it felt like it would shake the building. I
reached out and felt of Mark to make sure he was there. If I had felt
for him and found he wasn’t there I believe I’d have screeched like an
owl and tried to climb the walls. But he was there, all right. His hand
that I touched wasn’t very steady, either. I guess Mark Tidd was as
scared as I was.

Now the door was open a foot, and the line of light disappeared to the
height of a short man. In a minute the light, such as it was, was there
again, and we knew the visitor was inside. Inside! Right in the room
with us, and though it was a pretty good-sized room, it wasn’t half big
enough to suit me. I’d have been willing to have it a mile square.

[Illustration: I COULD SEE IT WAS A MAN’S HEAD AND HE WAS SPYING IN]

As I said, it was as dark as a pocket, and there wasn’t a chance of the
man seeing us unless he stumbled over us. Mark put his hand on my knee
as much as to say, “Keep quiet,” but I didn’t need anybody to tell me to
keep quiet. I never felt more like being still in my life. I quit
breathing and I guess it was five minutes before I started up again. I
didn’t believe a fellow could go five minutes without breathing, but I
do now. I think I could go _ten_ minutes if I was pushed.

We could hear the man _feeling_ along the wall. It was just a soft rub
with a little rustle. He was trying to find the door, I expect. He
passed along the wall farthest away from us, and I was much obliged to
him. He was plenty near for all the pleasure I could get out of his
company. He found the door all right, because I heard him stumble on the
step of the stairs. For quite a while everything was as silent as an
undertaker’s shop at midnight. The man was waiting to make sure nobody
had heard him. Then we could hear him start to creep up the stairs. We
let him go. Somehow it didn’t seem worth while to stop him. Maybe if I’d
had a Gatling gun and a Fiji war-club and a Russian bomb and a suit of
armor and a battle-ax I might have asked him where he was going. But I
didn’t, so I couldn’t see a particle of use in interrupting him. Anyhow,
he might not have liked it to be interrupted and he was a sort of guest.
It isn’t polite to bother your guests.

We sat still about an hour, it seemed. Then Mark whispered:

“Let him g-go.”

“You don’t notice me stoppin’ him any, do you?”

“We could scare him out,” says he, “but it’s best to l-l-let him prowl.
He won’t hurt anybody or anythin’, and he won’t find Motu. Maybe he’ll
go away, thinkin’ Motu isn’t here at all.”

“I hate to let him get away without anythin’ happenin’ to him,” says I.
“I don’t like to get as scared as I was and pay nobody back for it.”

Mark chuckled the faintest kind of a chuckle. “It might do him good if
we f-f-f-fixed up somethin’ to amuse him,” says he. “Somethin’ he
wouldn’t suspect us of. Lemme think.”

“Go ahead,” says I. “Thinkin’ can be done at all hours here.”

“Where’d Plunk and Binney leave their bait-cans?” says he.

“Just outside the door.”

“Sneak over and get ’em,” says he.

I wasn’t very anxious to, but I wasn’t anxious to let Mark see I wasn’t
anxious, so I crawled over and reached through the door. The cans were
there and I fetched them along. Mark dumped the worms and dirt out of
them. They were big tomato-cans about five inches high and both of them
had their tops bent back where they had been opened with a can-opener.

“Got some string?” says Mark.

I gave him a fish-line that I had in my pocket. He cut it and fastened
the cans together with a piece about four feet long. Then he went toward
the stairs as still as a fish swimming in a lake. He had taken off his
shoes. In two jerks of a lamb’s tail he was back.

“What did you do?” says I.

“Sit still and wait,” says he.

“Let’s hide behind the counter, then,” says I.

We did. For half an hour we scrooched down behind that counter, waiting.
Then all of a sudden there was a little jangle at the head of the
stairs, and right on top of it there was a big jangle followed by a
yell, and somebody came bumpety-bump down head over heels, with those
tin cans whanging and banging after him. I knew right off what Mark had
done. He had put one can on each side of the stairs at the top, with the
string stretching across between them. As soon as Mr. Jap came along his
feet hit the string and jerked the cans together behind him with a bang.
Then he’d tripped and come down head over apple-cart.

He hit the bottom with a whang, pretty scared by that time, I calculate.
In a jiffy he was on his feet and streaking it for the door. Just as he
got opposite us Mark Tidd let out the worst screech I ever heard. It
sounded like a combination of a wildcat and a fire-whistle. Spooky? It
was the blood-curdlingest yell I ever heard.

The Jap let out one squawk and dived at the door head first. Then he
ran.

I just laid back and laughed, not out loud, you understand, but silent,
like Natty Bumppo in the Leatherstocking Tales. I was even with that Jap
for the scare he gave me, all right—even and a little over. I’ll bet he
thought the hotel was haunted by the worst kind of a ghost, and I’ll bet
he didn’t stop running till somebody stopped him.

“G-guess we can go to bed now,” says Mark. “Don’t believe anybody’ll
come foolin’ around again till mornin’.”

I didn’t think so, either, so we went upstairs, chuckling like
all-git-out. When we got there Plunk and Binney were sitting up shaking
in bed so they almost threw the bed-clothes on the floor.

“What—what was that?” Binney says.

“That,” says I, “was the official ghost of Lake Ravona. Wasn’t he a
peach?”

“Huh!” says Plunk. “Next time you want to have any ghosts yellin’
around, just let a feller know. I’ll bet you scared ten pounds off of
me, and I ain’t so fat I could lose it like some folks I know.”

“No,” says Mark, who was pretty sensitive about his fat and didn’t like
to have folks mentioning it—“no, you ain’t fat below the neck, but from
there up there ain’t so m-m-much to say for you.”

“Is it our turn to watch?” says Binney.

“There won’t be any more watchin’ to-night,” says Mark. “The ghost’ll
see to t-that.”



                               CHAPTER X


The next day passed without a sight of a single Japanese. Motu told us
it was probably because the four were pretty badly scared by what
happened the night before, and were waiting for The Man Who Will Come.
He said the four were just sort of scrub Japs, full of superstitions and
that sort of thing. But, says he, don’t expect any ghost dodges to
frighten the other fellow. Motu’s idea was that the four would lay back
and keep watch.

Motu stayed inside all day. Plunk and Binney fished. Mark pottered
around on the island across his little lift-bridge, and I don’t know
just what he was up to, though I found out later, and so did the
Japanese. As for me, I was just plum lazy. I took one of the books Mark
brought along—it was by a fellow named Stevenson, and was all about a
man named Alan Breck and another called Davie Balfour—and read. I didn’t
intend to read long, but I found out I’d got hold of the wrong kind of a
book to quit. I couldn’t quit, and put in the whole day at it.

At night we set watch again, but nothing happened. It wasn’t till nearly
noon next day when something did happen. I was sitting on the porch at
the time with Mark Tidd. Down the road a couple of hundred yards we saw
a man coming. He was a little man, and even at that distance we saw he
walked sort of jaunty, swinging his shoulders and switching off leaves
with a slender cane. He looked all dressed up.

When he got closer we saw he _was_ all dressed up. Dressed up? Wow! I
should say he was. He was a regular dude. Sticking in one eye was one of
those funny spectacle things like Englishmen wear in funny pictures.
There was just one glass to it, and it was hitched to a black ribbon. On
his head was a straw hat, one of those kind that cost a lot of money and
come from some place across the Pacific Ocean—a Bankok, they call them,
I guess. His clothes were light gray and they fitted him like they had
been made on purpose. On his feet he wore spats—at least that’s what
Mark Tidd said they were. _I_ never saw any such idiotic things before.
You’ve seen a dicky for a shirt, haven’t you? A sort of false front?
Well, spats are dickies for shoes.

The man came on without showing a sign that he saw us. His face was
screwed kind of sideways to hold that single glass in his eye, and he
appeared to be pretty well pleased with himself. He was a Jap!

“Mark,” says I, “it’s _him_!”

“Yes,” says he, “The One Who Will Come has g-g-got here.”

We waited without making a move till he got right up to us. Then he took
off his hat and made a bow like d’Artagnan in the _Three Musketeers_—a
regular old ground-sweeper.

“To you good morning,” says he, kind of mincing his words like a girl
with half a college education that took lessons on the violin and
elocution.

“Good morning,” we says right back at him.

“You have some beautiful places to live at,” says he, as polite as a
hungry cat miawing around the dinner-table.

“There’s f-f-folks might disagree with you,” says Mark, “but we feel
pretty well suited.”

“To be of course,” says he. “A hotel, do you not? Yes. For in which is
meals and beds to sleep?”

“Almost,” says Mark, “but not quite. It’s what’s left of a hotel.”

“It is your hotel? You in personally are its keeper?”

“I guess it needs a keeper, all right,” says Mark, “but I ain’t it.”

“You take in individuals for boarding?”

“Nope.”

“Not? Oh, I was presenting myself as boarder. I wished rooming and
eating.”

“You came to the wrong shop.”

“For reasonable money paid on Mondays would you not give me roomings and
boardings?”

“Not even for money p-p-paid on Sundays,” says Mark.

“Do you make no exceptions to rule?”

“No.”

“But certainly yes. You have taking in a boarder the day or two before.”

“L-l-listen here, mister,” says Mark, “we’re not takin’ boarders now nor
yesterday. We are four boys on a fishin’ trip. Mr. Ames lent us this
hotel. We ain’t l-lookin’ for any company. There you have the facts.”

“But you give board to Japanese boy. Eh? Not? To be sure. To bad leetle
Japanese boy that runned off away. You meet him in woods and he say,
‘Give me eatings and sleepings.’ So you give to him. Also he stays yet
continuously near by in room of seclusion out of view.”

“Say that all over,” says Mark. “I guess I d-don’t quite get all of it
the first bite.”

“Japanese boy come. Telling story about naughty lying. Smaller Japanese
boy than you are little. You see him? To be surely certain. He is
running off away from fathers and mothers and uncles and relatives. See
me. Looking at me closely. Have I not the look of an uncle? You see it.
An uncle. Small Japanese boy has father who sends me to bringing him to
return. That is all. Spankings shall be for Japanese boy, but not
nothing more. Eh? He is now up over the stairs? Yes. Shall I climbing
up-stairs for after him?”

“Mister,” says Mark, “what are you t-talkin’ about? You scramble your
talk all up so nobody can understand what you’re gettin’ at.”

“Is little Japanese boy here?”

Mark got up and looked all around, and then looked at The Man Who Will
Come, sort of puzzled.

“Did you f-f-fetch a little boy with you?”

“Not,” says the man. “Before I came he arrived.”

Mark shrugged his shoulders. “I guess we better humor him,” he says to
me, but loud enough so the man could hear. “He’s one of them lunies, I
calc’late. Talks c-c-crazy, don’t he? What’s he mean, anyhow?”

“Honorable fat boy is mistakenly in error,” says the Japanese. “There is
no craziness. Altogether vice versa on the opposite. I am very much
unusually bright in mind. I shall show you I have an education. I know
to speak many languages.”

“Speak all of ’em as well as you s-s-speak English?”

“Yes, yes. Some as good and all better.”

“The feller that taught you,” says I, “must have known a joke when he
saw it. Did he laugh much?”

He didn’t pay any attention to me, but says to Mark: “What room is
Japanese boy? Up-stairs?”

“He’s got Japanese boy on the b-brain,” says Mark to me. Then he turned
to the man and says: “Say, mister, was you foolin’ around here the other
night? S-somebody got into the hotel and fell d-down-stairs, and
screeched around and raised an awful row. Was it you?”

“Ho! No, it was not myself.” He laughed and showed two rows of the
whitest teeth you ever saw. “It was ignorant fellow without schooling,
who believe ghosts and spirits walks up and down. He was so frightened
he has not yet stopped the shivering and shaking. You play trick on him?
Eh?”

“Now look here,” says Mark, “what do you want, anyhow? We b-boys are
here for a good time, and we d-don’t want anybody prowlin’ around at all
times of the night. If you want somethin’ just say so. If we can g-give
it to you we’ll give it; if not, we’ll tell you so.”

“You give up Japanese boy?”

“I’ll g-give you all the Japanese boys you can find. What d’you think
we’re doin’? Runnin’ a congress of nations? I don’t want any Japanese
boys.”

“You haven’t seen Japanese boy?”

“I wish you’d get Japanese boy out of your head. I’m s-s-sick of hearin’
about him. If you’ve got an idee we’re hidin’ your boy somewheres, go
ahead and look. It’ll satisfy your m-mind, such as it is, and you won’t
be b-botherin’ us any more.”

“You make me permission with immediate quickness to stroll pleasantly
through hotel in search?”

“Go ahead. Search till you wear out your s-s-shoes.”

The man’s eyes glittered at that, and he looked as eager as a hungry dog
gazing at a bone through a store window.

“I can make exhausting search now?”

“The sooner the better,” says Mark, and he leaned back and shut his eyes
like he was sleepy.

The man went past us, stepping like a dancing-master and swinging his
little cane. There was perfume on him, because I smelled it as he went
past. He didn’t look back as he went through the door. We didn’t turn
our heads to look after him for quite a few minutes, but then I went to
the door and peeked in. He had gone up-stairs.

“He might find Motu,” says I.

“Not m-much chance,” says Mark, “and we may fool him into thinkin’ Motu
isn’t here.”

“Don’t believe it,” says I. “For all his funny talk and dude clothes,
I’ll bet he’s a sharp little customer. If he’s got it into his head
Motu’s here, he’ll stick around till he’s _certain_ one way or the
other.”

“Maybe so,” says Mark. “All we can do is try.”

We sat there feeling pretty anxious, and it seemed like most of the
morning and part of the afternoon had passed before we heard anything of
The Man Who Will Come again. Then we didn’t hear from him exactly. It
was from Motu’s dog we heard.

The dog was asleep in the old dining-room, a big place about fifty feet
square. It was bare of furniture. All of a sudden we heard the dog give
a growl that grew up into a roar. Then there was a sort of scurry and
scramble, and we dashed in to see what was up.

In the middle of the room stood The Man Who Will Come, with the same
happy grin on his face that he’d worn when he met us outside. In front
of him the dog was crouching for another spring and growling as savage
as a pack of wolves. Just as we got there the dog sprang. Well, sir, I
thought it was all day with Mr. Jap, for the dog was as big as he was.
But what followed was as pretty a sight as I ever hope to see. The man
waited till the dog was in the air with his fangs almost at his throat.
Then, quicker than the space between two things, and graceful as a
weasel, he just took one step and bent his body to the side. The dog
whirled right on by, but as he passed the man whacked him a good one
right across the muzzle with his little cane.

“Ho, big dog!” he says. “You are not so polite brought up in first-rate
society. I will teach you to learn. Ho!”

The dog roared and jumped again, and once more the man dodged just
enough to let him pass, and slapped him over the nose with his little
stick. He laughed while he did it, and acted as careless as if he was
just playing a game instead of trying to save his life from a savage
dog.

Twice more the dog threw himself through the air and twice more the
Japanese moved just enough to let him slide by while he whacked him on
the nose. Graceful! Well, I never saw anything like it. And cool! He was
that cool you could almost feel a chilly breeze blowing off him.

That dog was mad. He didn’t seem to understand just how it happened he
wasn’t chewing the man, and the more he thought about it the madder he
got. But he saw that just going it blind and leaping for the man’s
throat wasn’t going to do him any good. He crouched for a minute and
then began to creep ahead, slow, slow. The Jap stood grinning down at
him and talking all the time.

“Naughty big dog. What for do you bite to eat me? Must I box-fight you
on the nose? Ho! You jump so slow. You must jump with more fastness if
you catch me. Make jumping now. Come!”

But the dog didn’t jump. He crawled nearer and nearer, but the man
didn’t move. Of a sudden, before I had any idea what he was going to do,
the dog rushed, but this time he didn’t jump. He came close to the floor
and straight for the Jap’s legs. I was looking right at that man, but he
moved so fast I couldn’t follow him. The next thing I knew the dog was
rolling over and yowling, for the Jap had suddenly shifted somehow and
kicked the dog right under the chin with a kick like a flash of
lightning. He had a chance to run out and slam the door then, but he
didn’t move—just stood there and grinned at Mr. Dog.

Well, sir, that dog went crazy. He yelled and made another spring. This
time the man bent backward and cut the dog just behind the ears with the
edge of his hand. It was the same blow some folks use to kill rabbits.
It stopped that jump right in the middle, and the dog slumped down to
the floor limp and kind of dazed, for he laid there a few seconds,
growling low in his throat, and acting like he wasn’t quite sure whether
he was a dog or a sack of potatoes.

But he had courage, that dog. He didn’t quit. He struggled up to his
feet and started in again. This time Mr. Jap stood with his back to the
bay-window, and when the dog jumped he went down on one knee, letting
the dog go right over his head. But he didn’t wait for him to go way
over. He rose right up in the middle of that dog and heaved with his
arms and his back, and the dog just turned a cart-wheel in the air and
went _smash!_ through glass and window-sash and everything. Out he went,
bag and baggage. And he didn’t try to come back. He was satisfied.

The Jap looked out of the window to see the dog pick himself up and limp
away; then he turned to us with the grin still on his face and says:

“The dog he learn how to know better, I feel unreasonable certain.”

“Yes,” says Mark, “I calc’late he’s added to h-his education some.”

“I have gone through your hotel from the beginning of it to the opposite
endings, but there is not anywhere therein a Japanese boy. I am
surprised with astonishment. He came by toward this way in a similar
direction. Maybe he makes a hiding in the woods. But I am much obliged
with thankfulness to you, to be sure. Now good day and pleasant fishings
to you. Yours very truly.”

With that he turned and minced out of the hotel. He wasn’t excited. He
wasn’t mussed. He was just as much of a dude, and just as spotless and
spick and span, as when he came in, for all that he’d had a battle with
a dog that would have made most men twice his size get out of breath and
maybe worse.

I looked at Mark and Mark looked at me.

“He’s quite considerable of a man, more or less,” says I.

“P-plenty,” says Mark.

“I expect we’ve got our job all cut out for us.”

“That g-g-grinnin’ little man gives me the shivers,” says Mark. And
that’s just how I felt. I was afraid of him, and I don’t care who knows
it. Good and afraid.



                               CHAPTER XI


“What have you been doin’ over in the citadel?” says I. The citadel was
what we called the building across the bridge.

“Fixin’ engines of d-d-defense,” says Mark.

“Hope we don’t have to use ’em.”

“We will,” says he, short-like.

“You don’t think we fooled The Man Who Will Come?”

“We f-fooled him about a quart, or maybe a pint, but it’ll wear off. He
ain’t the kind to stay f-fooled.”

“No,” says Motu, from the door behind us, “he will not stay fooled, but
he will fool others so they stay fooled.”

“I’ve got a lot of respect for him since I’ve seen him in action,” says
I.

“If he discovers me I shall run,” says Motu. “It will be decided by
legs. Who has the best legs wins.”

“The only way you could r-r-run and get away would be straight up,” says
Mark, “and we’re just out of flyin’-machines. No, you won’t run, Motu.
You’ll stay and we’ll s-s-stand a siege.”

“But, Mark Tidd, this large hotel cannot be defended by five. It would
take fifty fighting-men.”

“It isn’t the hotel we’re goin’ to d-defend; it’s the citadel. We’re
keepin’ it for a s-s’prise. Wait till these fellows discover you.
They’ll think all they have to do is to come and get you out of here—but
we won’t be here. Five of us can put up a pretty good fight in the
citadel.”

“I’m goin’ for a walk,” says I. “I need exercise.”

“Guess I’ll stay and t-t-talk to Motu,” says Mark.

I went off alone, though I was a little nervous about it. I headed
toward the road and went along about a quarter of a mile when all of a
sudden a Japanese stepped out of the bushes into the road and stood in
front of me. He just stood and looked at me and scowled.

I didn’t walk past him. I expect I could have if I’d wanted to, but I
didn’t want to. I stopped and looked at him and scowled, but his scowl
was working better than mine; at any rate, I didn’t notice his knees
shaking any. He lifted his arm and pointed back toward the hotel. Not a
word did he say, but I gathered what he meant, all right. He was
explaining to me politely that he didn’t want me to go any farther. I
was obliging about it and turned right around and made for home.

“Mark,” says I when I got there, “we’re prisoners.”

“How?” says he.

“I tried to go for a walk, but a Japanese stopped me.”

“Huh! Don’t want any m-m-messages sent,” says he. “I calc’late we fooled
’em a lot, a whole, whoppin’ lot.... How’d you like to see how far
they’ll let you walk the other way?”

“Well,” says I, “this one didn’t bite me, so I guess the next one
won’t.” And at that I started out and went in the opposite direction.
This time I hadn’t gone a hundred yards before a Japanese got up out of
the bushes and herded me back the same as the first one did. We were
besieged, all right.

I told Mark about it and he shook his head like he’d known it all the
time.

“It don’t prove anythin’,” says he, “except that they _think_ Motu’s
here, and dassen’t take chances. They don’t _know_ yet.”

“When we get a chance,” says I, “we’d better carry the rest of the grub
across the bridge.”

“No,” says he; “they’d see us and suspect somethin’. We’ll have to
s-s-sneak over what we can; but there’s enough for a couple of weeks
there now.”

“How about cookin’-things?” says I.

“They’re not there. But we can take ’em in a second. Always have them
piled together ready to grab. That’ll be your job, Tallow. Remember. At
the first alarm drop everything and forget everything else. Just
g-g-grab those dishes and scoot.”

“All right,” says I. “Here goes to get ’em ready now.”

And now came the discovery of Motu by The Man Who Will Come. It was by
nobody’s fault unless it was Motu’s own, but if what he did was a fault,
then I should like to be committing faults like it all my life. We had
all gotten to like Motu, for he was so pleasant and gentlemanly and
patient, but that was all. We didn’t feel toward him like we felt toward
one another, and it wasn’t to be expected. But from that time on he
belonged. It was the first time a boy had ever been let into our crowd
of four, and the last time—but this boy deserved it. The thing Motu did
was not only brave, for it isn’t such a big thing to be brave, but it
was self-sacrificing, which is a big thing. He not only did a brave
thing in an emergency when quick thinking and quick acting had to be
done, but, with his eyes open, he risked capture by the Japanese, with
all the important results that would have come from it. Without a
moment’s hesitation he risked everything for one of us, and I hope that
all the rest of our lives we will be just as quick to risk everything
for him. This was the way of it:

Plunk and Binney came in from fishing. They had been out in the canoe,
and luck had been right in the boat with them, for they had a dandy
string of bass and pickerel. Plunk got out with the fish and carried
them over to the live-box. For some reason or another Binney pushed off
again all alone and paddled out about twenty feet from shore. I guess at
the start he had it in mind to go somewhere, but changed his plan. He
stopped where the water was about four feet deep, and then, like a
little idiot, leaned over the side of the canoe to wash his face.

He washed it, all right, and the rest of him with it. Just as if it had
been alive and wanted to get rid of Binney, that canoe tipped over.
_Ker-flop!_ it went. Binney just had time to let out a yell. I came to
the kitchen door, where I had been putting the cooking-dishes in shape,
and saw him take the dive. Other folks heard the yell, for out of the
tail of my eye I saw The Man Who Will Come step into sight about two
hundred yards down the road and stand looking.

I expected Binney to come right up and wade ashore, but he didn’t. I
couldn’t understand it, and my mind didn’t work fast enough to figure
what had happened. Mark was across the bridge in the citadel, so he
wasn’t there to help any, and if it hadn’t been for Motu I guess our
crowd of four would have been cut down to three and a pretty sorrowful
three. But Motu was there, and the day will never come when I stop being
thankful for it.

While I stood there like a big booby Motu came rushing out of the hotel
and plunged into the water. He couldn’t swim, either, but fortunately
the water wasn’t over his head between him and Binney. He surged and
jumped and plowed his way to where the canoe floated, bottom up—floated
and bobbed and wiggled as Binney struggled under it where he had got
caught somehow.

When Motu got there he just ducked under. It pulled a yell right out of
me, I was so frightened. It seemed like he was underwater half an hour,
but it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds. When he came up he
was dragging something with him, and that something was Binney
Jenks—limp and unconscious. Then Motu began plowing his way back again.

Of a sudden I remembered The Man Who Will Come and looked that way. He
was coming on the run with two Japanese at his heels. They had covered
half the distance.

“Quick, Motu, quick!” I bawled, and dashed into the kitchen for my
dishes. By the time I was out Motu was almost to shore and the Japs were
not fifty yards away.

“Mark!” I yelled. “Mark Tidd!” and scooted across the bridge.

I might have known Mark wouldn’t be far away from his job. Before I was
half-way across Mark leaned over the balcony above and threw down the
end of a rope with a hook on it.

“H-h-hitch it to the other end of the b-bridge,” he stuttered, as
excited as a chicken when there’s a hen-hawk around.

I got the idea, grabbed the rope, and hooked it to the staple on the far
end of the lift-bridge. Then I jumped back for the citadel side.

Now Motu was coming, staggering and running, with Binney over his
shoulder. Behind him, not twenty-five yards away, were the three Japs.
Motu’s lips were drawn back so you could see his beautiful white teeth,
and the expression on his face was the sort a man wears when he is
making the greatest effort of his life.

“Hurry, Motu, hurry!” I yelled, and danced up and down with eagerness
and fear and excitement.

Motu hadn’t far to go, but Binney was bigger than he was, and it was too
much for him to carry. My, but he was strong! He staggered on, tripping,
almost falling on his face sometimes, and the Japs got closer and
closer.

I grabbed up a couple of potatoes that had somehow spilled when we
carried them over, and heaved one at the first Jap. I hit him, too, so
that he grunted and stopped a little. Maybe it was enough to help. Then
I threw the other at The Man Who Will Come, but he just moved his head,
and I could see him grin, for all he was running so hard.

Now Motu was at the very edge of the bridge, with the Japs not a dozen
feet behind.

From the balcony I heard Mark yell, “T-throw Binney on the b-bridge and
jump.”

Quick as a wink Motu did as he was told, and then Mark Tidd’s drawbridge
showed what it was made for. The instant the two boys were on the bridge
Mark pushed over the iron weight that was to help lift it. But this was
no time for slow lifting, so what did Mark do but grab that rope just
above the weight and jump right off the balcony. Down he came,
_ker-slam!_ and up went the bridge with Motu and Binney on it. Up it
went, with the first Japanese so close it almost caught him under the
nose. He couldn’t stop, and went right under the lift into the water.

Motu and Binney came rolling and bumping down the bridge to our side.
The Japs stopped sudden, and one of them hauled out the man who had
fallen in.

“They—can’t—swim,” panted Motu.

So, for a while at least, we were safe. There wasn’t a boat on that
side, they couldn’t come anywhere near jumping across, and they couldn’t
do anything till they had figured out some scheme to cross the water.

By this time Mark Tidd was down-stairs, working over Binney. He knew all
about first aid, and, by pumping and working Binney’s arms and one thing
and another, it wasn’t long before Binney showed signs that he was
alive. In half an hour he was able to sit up and move around sort of
feeble. It was the first second we had had time to breathe.

Mark Tidd stood up and walked over to Motu with his hand out.

“Motu,” says he, “there ain’t any t-thanks that will do for a thing like
you did. It’s somethin’ that can’t ever be paid for by words, or even by
doin’ things. But I want to t-t-tell you, Motu, that—that none of those
Samurai in your country have got you beat. You’re as good as the best of
’em, and some b-better. And one thing you can depend on, and that is
that this crowd’ll stick to you, and work for you, and f-f-fight for you
till they p-p-petrify.”

Motu smiled a proud, grateful sort of smile and took Mark’s hand. “What
you say is good. It makes me fill with pride. I am joyful your Binney is
safe, and I am joyful it was Motu who helped.”

“Now,” says Mark, “we’d better be gettin’ ready for business.”

I thought so, too. The Japs had disappeared behind the hotel. We
couldn’t see what they were up to, but we knew mighty well it was
something that wouldn’t be good for us.

The siege had begun.



                              CHAPTER XII


There didn’t seem to be much of anything for us to do but wait till the
besiegers made the first move. It wasn’t as though we had a strong
garrison and could make sorties. The best we could hope for was to beat
off attacks. The odds weren’t so bad; five boys and a dog against five
Japanese men, but the odds were on their side, I expect.

Of course they had to come to us, and they had to cross water to do it.
There were three ways of coming—by swimming, which Motu said they
couldn’t do; by boat, and they hadn’t any boat; or by raft, which would
be easy for them to make. They might make a bridge, I suppose, and throw
it across, but it didn’t seem likely. The thing we had to look out for,
then, was a raft.

Both of us had good generals. I’ve seen enough of Mark Tidd in pinches
to know that you can depend on his brain to do the best thing there is
to do, and from what Motu said, and from what we had seen, The Man Who
Will Come wasn’t to be sneezed at. If it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t
have had much worry. But he was a bad one!

While I was thinking about him what should he do but walk around the
corner of the hotel and call over to us from his side of the moat.

“Good day to everybody,” says he.

“Same to you,” says Mark. “Hope you’re f-f-feelin’ well.”

“Oh, I am feeling splendidly well, very splendidly well, indeed. You
have pretty little bridges that go up in air with sudden
surprisingness,” says he, and grins again.

“We like it pretty well ourselves,” says Mark.

“I am talking,” says The Man Who Will Come, “for purpose of argument
with you to lowering down the bridge from there.”

“We like it up p-p-pretty well.”

“Bridges are for walking across waters with dry feet. I would desire to
walk across this water shod-dry to you.”

“We get a good view of you where you are. If you came nearer you
m-m-might spoil the effect.”

“Have you seen little bad Japanese boy that goes running off away from
kind fathers and uncles?” says he, with another broad grin.

I guess he was being sarcastic some.

“Japanese boy!” Mark pretended to look all over except where Motu was
standing. “I don’t calc’late to see any Japanese boy.”

“Of course certainly _not_. Why should you see Japanese boy? For not any
reason. Let us imagine to suppose there is no Japanese boy. Eh?”

“I’m perfectly willin’.”

“Then if there is not any why do you have bridge up in the air, for
lighting on by birds?”

“We just put it up to see if it would w-w-work—and it did.” Mark added
that last with an aggravating kind of a grin, but the Jap grinned right
back.

“I have select friends together here with me. We take pleasure if we can
come across. We are anxious with desirability to come across. I have
lofely dispositions, but my friends, oh, I cannot tell. Sometimes they
become to get angry quickly. Do you see? If you should not let to allow
them on your bridge, I cannot say, no, I am not informed, what it is
they might do.”

“Huh!” says Mark. “If they’re so anxious to come, tell ’em to swim.”

“We have made imaginings that there is no Japanese boy. Now let us make
imaginings there _is_ one. Eh? So. That Japanese boy has told you
naughty things that are lie. Oh yes. But the truth is going now to be
told you. He is a bad boy, so very bad a boy. It is not good for nice
boys to have him close by and near to them. In his own land there would
be spanking on honorable pants for him because he is so bad. Do you see
to understand?”

“Sure,” says Mark. “We’re p-pretty average bad ourselves. I guess your
imaginary boy won’t do us any harm.”

The Man Who Will Come grinned again as good-natured and friendly as
possible.

“You do not know me,” says he. “I am of great determinations. Certainly.
When in my mind I say a thing must be done, then that thing shall
quickly be done without anybody bothering with a delay. Am I clearly
plain? Now there is no imaginings. There is talking out straight from
shoulders, as you say in this country. There stands Japanese boy. Here I
stand. I am come for that boy. Also I shall not go away and depart
without him. If you American boys pull down and lower your bridge and
give up the Japanese boy there shall be no harm. Not the slightness of
smallest.”

“That sounds good,” says Mark. “We don’t want any d-damage done. But
s’posin’, just s’posin’ we couldn’t get around to givin’ up any Japanese
boys to-day? What if we wanted a Japanese boy ourselves? What then?”

“Then,” says the man, “my friends and I myself shall take the boy. We
shall come across by bridge or otherwise, as the case may be. We cannot
be cautiously careful to hurt anybody, can we? No. It would not be
certainly possible. So we come. Then you look out. Eh?” He grinned and
swung his little stick just as if he was a summer visitor chatting
pleasant about the weather.

“Now you l-listen,” says Mark, “and _you’ll_ hear some facts. There’s a
Japanese boy here, and his name’s Motu.” At that the man looked sort of
surprised and turned to squint at Motu like he didn’t quite understand.
“Also,” says Mark, “we owe that boy consid’able of a debt. We’re the
debt-payin’ kind. Now, then, here’s Motu. If you want him, mister, come
and get him. That’s f-final.”

“Good,” says the man. “Now we know, do not we? Each knows the other’s
intention that he hopes to do. That makes it better. Good day to
everybody.”

“Good day,” says Mark, “and if I was you I’d think it over a little
before I started m-m-makin’ a landin’ on this shore. It’s a hot shore
and l-likely to burn your feet.”

The man turned with the politest kind of a bow, and walked away as
jaunty as the tenor in the Wicksville choir.

“Quick!” says Mark. “One of you get around to the other side of the
citadel to see if anythin’s happenin’.” You see, he’d been suspicious
that the man hadn’t come just to talk, but to keep us interested while
he tried something where we couldn’t see. And Mark was right.

Plunk and I scooted around where we could see the other side, and there,
about thirty feet off, was a Jap hanging on to a short log with one arm,
and paddling toward us as fast and as quietly as he could. He didn’t see
us.

“What’ll we do?” says Plunk.

“Splash him a little,” says I. “No need to hurt him, but make him think
he’s goin’ to get a good swat on the head.”

I picked up a good-sized stone from the beach and heaved it. It didn’t
land more than two feet from the Jap, and it made an awful splash. You
can bet he quit paddling sudden and stuck up his head to see what was
going on. At that Plunk let a rock fly. It hit the log just ahead of Mr.
Jap and bounded off. Down went his head so nothing but his nose showed,
and he began to back away.

Well, sir! For three or four minutes we had enough fun with that fellow
to last us a week. We heaved rocks on every side of him, and some of
them close enough to make it pretty uncomfortable. We could have hit him
if we’d wanted to, but we didn’t. In the first place, Mark Tidd wouldn’t
have liked it, and in the second place we wouldn’t have liked it
ourselves. War’s war, but there’s no use doing more damage than you have
to do to get results. And we got them, all right. That Jap had enough
swimming on a log to last him.

When he got to shore he floundered out, and the way he skinned for
shelter was enough to get a laugh out of a man that had just hit his
thumb with a hammer. We whizzed a couple more stones past him and then
gave the order to stop firing.

Mark said the scheme was to sneak a man on the island who would creep
around and cut the rope that held the bridge.

Well, that was the first skirmish, and we had come out on top. It made
us all feel pretty good, but all the same we realized there hadn’t been
much to it. We knew that before very long we’d have more to do than shy
rocks at a man in the water who couldn’t shy back again.

All at once I remembered the canoe Binney had tipped over in. I looked,
and there it was, floating bottom side up, about thirty feet from shore
and in shallow water where anybody could wade out to it. I didn’t wait
for anybody to tell me, but just took a header off the dock, clothes and
all, and swam out into the lake. I knew better than to swim right for
that canoe, because that would attract attention to it. But as soon as I
thought it was safe I turned and swam for it faster than I ever swam
before in my life. When I was about twenty feet from it I heard a yell
and saw a Jap racing down from the hotel to get to the canoe first. At
the same time I heard another yell from the citadel, and a rock whizzed
past Mr. Jap. It didn’t stop him a bit, though; he came right on. So did
the rocks; and I shouldn’t be surprised if this time Plunk and Binney
were really trying to hit.

The Jap rushed into the water, and about that time I got my toe on the
bottom and splashed toward the canoe. He got to one end just as I got to
the other. I jerked and he jerked, but he was strongest. For myself I
wasn’t afraid, for whenever I wanted to I could turn tail and swim to
safety, but I didn’t want those men to have that canoe, so I set my
heels and tugged like a good one.

It wasn’t any good. Little by little he jerked me toward the shore, and
I was about ready to give up when I heard a sharp little _spat_, and the
Jap let out a squeal. Right after came another spat, and I saw Mark Tidd
taking aim with his slingshot. Now Mark was about the best shot with a
sling in Michigan. He let go the pebble, and, _mister_, but it was a
good shot! It plunked the Jap right on the hand. He yelped and let go,
and in that second I snatched the canoe away from him and gave it a push
toward deep water.

[Illustration: LITTLE BY LITTLE HE JERKED ME TOWARD THE SHORE]

He recovered himself quick and jumped after it, but I had time to give
it another push, and that carried it out over his head.

“Ho!” says I. “Don’t you wish you’d learned to swim when you was a boy?”
He made a jump for me, mad as a hornet, but I knew a trick worth two of
that. I took the heel of my hand and just skipped the top of the water
with it. You know how to do it. It shoots a shower into the other
fellow’s face and blinds him for a minute. I shot a couple into Mr.
Jap’s face and then swam away without hurrying over it.

In a second I caught up with the canoe and towed it to the citadel,
where we pulled it up on shore.

“Tallow,” says Mark, “you’re p-promoted for gallantry under f-f-fire,
and for presence of mind in an emergency.”

That made me feel pretty good, for Mark don’t praise unless praise is
earned. Motu came over, too, and says:

“It was very well done. Some day you will be a leader of fighting-men.”

I guess I blushed.

Mark walked around the place a couple of times to get the lay of the
land, I expect, though goodness knows he ought to have known it by heart
before. At any rate, he had looked it over enough.

So you will understand, I’ll tell you just how the citadel lay. Maybe it
would be best to furnish you with a little map of the hotel and the
island where the citadel was, for you can always tell better by a map
than any other way. So you’ll find a map alongside some place.

The citadel was about fifty feet square and three stories high. The back
of it was built on spiles in the lake. One side was toward the hotel,
the other side faced out toward a sort of strait that connected the two
parts of the lake, and between the house and the water was a little
patch of land with some tall hemlocks on it. In front was nothing but a
dock about twenty feet broad. And there you are.

Mark came back with his plan for mounting guard in his head.

“It’ll be necessary to have t-t-two guards at once,” says he, “and
you’ll have to p-patrol regular beats. One beat will be from the bridge
around the front of the citadel to the end of the dock. The other will
be around the r-r-rim of the island from the dock to the back end of the
house. D-durin’ the day turns will be one hour long. At night they’ll be
t-three hours, so as to give each fellow a chance to sleep a little
betweentimes. There’s f-five of us, which will give one man a chance to
sleep all night every night and get r-r-rested up.”

“How’ll we see at night?” says Plunk.

“F-fires,” says Mark. “We’ll b-build two good fires, one in front and
one back by the trees.”

“And what’ll the alarm be?” says Binney.

“Anythin’ ’ll be the alarm. Just make the n-noise you think of first. So
long’s it’s loud enough it’ll do all right.”

So far as I was concerned I guess nobody had any complaint to make about
_my_ alarms. If they were as loud as I was scared every time I had to
make an alarm I’ll bet they were heard on the Pacific coast. And I had
to make them, too. Don’t forget about that. There were alarms enough to
satisfy anybody’s appetite.



                              CHAPTER XIII


“I don’t see,” says I, “why we couldn’t just as well pile into a boat
and row to the far end of the lake. From there we could make tracks for
town and save all this bother.”

Mark Tidd just looked at me disgusted.

“How far is it to t-t-town?” says he.

“Ten miles,” says I.

“How m-much lead d’you think you’d get on the Japs by rowin’ to the end
of the lake?”

“Mile or so,” says I.

“Huh! Those men could run there ’most as fast as we could row. We’d gain
some, but in the t-t-ten miles to town they’d catch us, and a f-fine
chance we’d have.”

I guess he was right about it. We were safer where we were, though I’d
have liked more water between us than there was.

“Mr. Ames ought to be here in three days,” says Binney. “Then Motu’ll be
safe.”

“Yes,” says Mark, sarcastic-like. “I s’pose five Japs’ll be close to
scared to death of one lame old man. Why, Mr. Ames hasn’t as much
f-f-fight in him as any one of us.”

“But he might fetch somebody with him,” says Plunk.

“That’s what we’ve got to hope for,” says Mark. “The main thing right
now is to keep off the Japanese till Mr. Ames does come. Three days is a
l-long time.”

“Yes,” says I, “but it would be a heap longer if we didn’t have plenty
of grub.”

“’Tis supper-time,” says Binney. “Come on.”

Well, sir, five minutes after that you could have bought the whole crowd
for a cent with a hole in it. We got everything ready to cook and fixed
wood and kindling for the fire—and nobody had a match. We searched our
pockets and turned them inside out. Then we rummaged through everything
we had brought over to the citadel from the hotel; and as a last resort
we scoured the whole citadel to see if somebody hadn’t left one laying
around by accident. But there wasn’t a match.

“No coffee,” says Binney.

“Coffee!” grunted Mark. “What’s worryin’ me is no f-fires to-night. We
might peg along somehow with the grub we’ve got, but we can’t get along
without fire to-night.”

“Might make fire like the savages do,” says I. “Take a stick with a
point to it and whirl it around in a hole in another stick.”

“If I was wrecked on a d-d-desert island,” says Mark, “and there wasn’t
any other way, I might try that. Probably it’d take a day’s fussin’ to
get the things fixed just right so’s they’d work. No, there’s a b-better
way than that.”

“What is it?” says I.

“Go get the box of m-matches on the kitchen shelf in the hotel.”

“Sure,” says I. “Just call and ask The Man Who Will Come to toss ’em
over.”

“Get all the fun you can out of it _now_,” says Mark, “because you’re
elected, Tallow.”

“Me?” says I. “Why?”

“Because you’re the best s-s-swimmer.”

“Next time,” says I, “I won’t learn to swim.”

“I don’t think there’ll be much danger,” says Mark. “We’ll fix up a
decoy. How f-far can you swim under water, Tallow?”

“Fifty or sixty feet,” says I.

“Good. I’ve seen you do b-b-better’n that. First we’ll send out Plunk in
the canoe. He’ll start out from the wharf and p-paddle along the shore
about two hundred f-feet out. He’ll take a cloth and m-make b’lieve wave
it to somebody on the far shore. I calc’late that’ll interest the Japs
some. Eh? Sort of give ’em the idea reinforcements are comin’.”

“Fine!” says I. “But where do I come in?”

“I’ll show you that as soon as Plunk’s gone.”

“When does he go?”

“Now,” says Mark.

“And all I’ve got to do is just slide across and fetch a supply of
matches?” says I. “Swim under water with ’em? How’ll I keep ’em dry? And
while I’m there hadn’t I better fetch along the kitchen stove? Could
just as well’s not.”

“You’re goin’ to be k-kept busy,” says Mark, “without tirin’ yourself
out tryin’ to be funny. Do your jokin’ when you get back with the
m-matches.”

[Illustration: I COULD GET INTO THE WATER WITHOUT THE LEAST BIT OF
DANGER OF ANYBODY’S SEEING ME]

We pushed off the canoe and Plunk started out with a pillow-case lying
handy for him to wave. He paddled until he got opposite the porch of the
hotel, and then, all of a sudden, he acted as if he was looking for
something on the far shore of the lake. After he’d watched a minute he
rose up as high as he dared without tipping over, and began to wave like
he had gone crazy. He flapped that pillow-case around his head in
circles and back and forth and up and down, at the same time letting out
a holler as if he was tickled to death about something.

As soon as Plunk’s side-show was performing I got ready for the main
act. Mark took me into the citadel, where we pried up a loose plank in
the floor. That part of the building was built on spiles right over the
water. So all I had to do was let myself through. That way I could get
into the water without the least bit of danger of anybody’s seeing me.
The water was up to my neck under the floor and got deeper toward the
edge. I found that out all by myself. It didn’t take any help at all.
All I did was to take one step careless-like, and into a hole I went
_ker-splash_!

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been talking to Mark at that
minute. But I was. I guess I must have been saying a big word, because
my mouth was as far open as I could get it. When you duck suddenly under
water with your mouth wide open the pleasure you get out of it is very
small. If Lake Ravona hadn’t been a pretty good-sized body of water I’d
have swallowed all of it and left the fish flopping on dry land. As it
was I did my best and lowered the level considerable.

When I came up, choking and splashing and close to drowned to death,
Mark Tidd was laughing fit to split.

“See if you can t-t-think of anythin’ humorous to say now, Tallow.
You’ve been unusual funny these few days past.”

“I’d like to have _you_ down here,” says I. “I’ll bet I’d make you think
of somethin’ pretty laughable.”

“Duck your head,” says he, still shaking all over like a plate of jelly,
“and swim under water to the back of the hotel. You can crawl in through
the kitchen window and get out again without anybody knowin’ you’ve
b-b-been there.”

I was mad, but there wasn’t anything to do but swallow it and wait for a
chance to get even. So I took a sight for the place where I wanted to
land and dived.

Swimming under water is all right when you do it for fun and when you do
it in water you know all about. But here I wasn’t doing it for fun—far
from it—and I didn’t know much about the water. I was pretty confident
there weren’t any spiles or boulders between me and shore to split my
head against, but I didn’t _know_. There’s a heap of difference between
being pretty sure and _knowing_. An ounce of _know_ is better than a ton
of _pretty sure_.

I took it as easy and cautious as I could, and after I’d been swimming
ahead till I thought my lungs would burst if I didn’t get a breath of
air my knees scraped the bottom. I’d got as far as I could go under
water. So I crouched down with nothing but my nose and eyes above water,
and spied around a bit.

I didn’t see a soul any place, so I crept in nearer, and got out on
shore at the back of the hotel. The kitchen window wasn’t far, now, so I
made a break for it. When I got to it I stopped again and looked all
around as well as inside. It looked safe. If only things were always as
safe as they look it would be fine. Wouldn’t it? But they’re not.

I pulled myself up and scrambled inside.

It wasn’t very light in there, but I could see as well as I needed to—at
any rate, I thought I could. Anyhow, I found my way across to the shelf
and grabbed a large package of matches. Then I turned and scuttled
across to the window I’d got in at. Right there was a surprise party for
me—about the worst one I ever got. I raised my head above the edge of
the window and looked out. While I was doing that a Japanese outside was
raising his head above the level of the window to look in. We almost
rubbed noses.

It was a close race to see who was most startled, but I guess I won. I
figure I did because he wouldn’t have been looking in that way if he
hadn’t expected to see something. I wasn’t expecting any sights, and
didn’t need any. I could have got along fine without seeing any Japanese
just then.

I let go and dropped back quick. It was pretty plain I couldn’t get out
the way I got in, and it was just as sure I was in a bad box. I’d been
discovered, and stood a first-class chance of being trapped right there
in the kitchen. I bolted.

My main idea was to get anywhere else, I didn’t so much care where. I
wanted to move and move quick. I did, too. Through the dining-room and
into the office, where I stopped a second to breathe and see if I could
think. Outside I could hear Plunk yelling and cheering like he was at a
baseball game. Whether the Jap who discovered me did any yelling to give
the alarm I don’t know. I found I didn’t do a very workman-like job of
thinking, so I says to myself that if I couldn’t think I’d better run,
anyhow. I ran. This time I headed up-stairs because I caught a glimpse
of The Man Who Will Come outside, watching Plunk, and, though I couldn’t
see any more, I believed other Japanese were with him. If I’d had any
hopes of escaping out of the front door they went glimmering.

I scooted down the long corridor toward the other end of the hotel,
partly because it was about the only way I _could_ go, and partly to get
nearer to the citadel. I wanted to get a chance to warn Mark Tidd of the
predicament I was in if I could.

I suppose I could have gone on to the third floor and hidden in Motu’s
old den, but the matches kept weighing on my mind. If I holed up like a
frightened fox and took the matches with me Mark and the fellows would
be in a bad fix that night. I made up my mind I’d get the matches across
somehow, no matter what happened to me. That was why I wanted to get
near the citadel. If I could attract Mark’s attention I could heave the
matches over to him, and then have my mind free to look out for myself.

About half-way down I thought I heard a sound ahead of me, and stopped
quick. Sure enough there was a sound. It was somebody coming up the back
stairs, probably to head me off. That made me listen back the way I’d
come. Right then and there I pretty nearly quit and curled up on the
floor like one of those little green worms does when you touch it with a
stick. I couldn’t go either way. All the choice I had was which room I’d
hide in.

As a matter of fact I didn’t stop to choose, but just bobbed into the
nearest doorway. By luck the key was in the door and I turned it. Then I
tiptoed to the window, but it was too far to jump or drop without taking
a big chance of spraining an ankle. Over at one side was a door that
opened into a bathroom, and the bathroom opened into another room, and
the other room opened into another room. A regular suite, it was. Then I
got an idea. If I do say it myself, it was about as good as Mark Tidd
could have done in the circumstances.

I had already locked the hall door. Quick as a wink I ran to it and
banged against it like I was trying to get out, or had slipped and
fallen against it. Then I scooted through the bathroom door and locked
that. After that I just went headlong, but as quietly as I could go,
into the third room. You see, I figured the Japanese would hear the
noise, and when they found the door locked would think I was there. Then
if they tried the next room and the bath they’d find _that_ door locked,
and, because I had the key right in my pocket, they’d be more than
liable to suppose it was locked on the _inside_. That would make them
dead certain I was in there. While they were trying to break in and
catch me I’d be making tracks.

Now, Mark Tidd or not, I think that was a good scheme. I don’t get up a
scheme very often, so when I do I want folks to know about it and sort
of appreciate it.

This scheme worked. I heard a man rush by the door of the room where I
crouched. Then, as plain as day, I heard him meet another fellow in
front of the locked door. They jabbered a minute in their funny
language, and after a minute they rattled on the door.

“Open,” says a man.

Of course nobody answered.

“Open,” he says again, “or we break.”

“Go ahead,” I thought to myself. “That’s what I want you to do.”

But they didn’t bu’st the door down. They went into the next room and, I
expect, found the bathroom and the other locked door. I know they did,
for I heard them bang on it and yell again. Both of them yelled. I knew
then that the hall was clear, so I opened my door and scooted. My bare
feet didn’t make much noise and I got to the top of the back stairs all
right, but I didn’t go down. What was down there I didn’t know, but I
did know that nobody was straight ahead—and straight ahead took me
nearer to the citadel.

There was a turn in the corridor that hid me from anybody behind, so I
slacked down so as not to make a particle of sound. Into the very last
room I went. It had a side window that looked right out on the little
strait that separated me from the citadel.

You can guess it didn’t take me long to throw up that window and look
out. The Man Who Will Come was still on the beach, watching Plunk.
Across on the dock was Mark Tidd. I didn’t stop to think, but just let
out a yell at Mark. He turned, but didn’t see me for a second. As soon
as he saw me I drew back my arm and threw the matches as far toward him
as I could. They landed safe. He picked them up and waved his hand.

I took a look toward The Man Who Will Come and saw that he saw me, for
he was coming on the run. It was my move, all right, so I began by
getting out of that room into the hall. The door opposite was open and I
took a chance on going in. Outside its back window was the roof of a
porch—a sort of dish-washing, fish-cleaning porch off the kitchen. It
was built on spiles and stood maybe six or eight feet into the water.

Out on that porch I got, and not a minute too soon, for those two
Japanese had smelled me out and came tearing in at the door. I hadn’t
much time to figure. I was cornered. The only way off that porch was
through the window, and the Japanese were between that and the door—one
of the nicest little traps you ever saw.

Well, there was just one thing for me to do. I knew how deep the water
was below. It was a good seven feet. The drop was a little over
twenty-feet—and, as Mark Tidd said, I was the best swimmer and diver in
the bunch. I jumped to the edge, poised a second, and dove.

It wasn’t much of a dive. I’ve taken higher ones, but the water was
pretty shallow. Still, there really wasn’t such a terrible risk to it. I
turned as soon as I struck the water, and, though I touched bottom, it
wasn’t hard enough to hurt me. Then I struck out for the citadel. The
rest was easy.

Mark Tidd was there to help me climb out, and so was Motu.

“Guess we’ll have to get a m-m-medal struck off for him, won’t we,
Motu?” says Mark.

“He shall have a thing better than many medals,” says Motu. “I am glad I
saw it. I will make it into a song myself. ‘The Leap of Tallow Martin’
it shall be called.”

“Aw, shucks!” says I, but all the same I was just a bit pleased with
myself.

Mark saw that like he sees everything, and calculated it was his duty to
take me down a peg.

“There wasn’t the r-r-risk you figure, Motu,” says he. “He’d have landed
on his h-head, you know, and that wouldn’t have hurt him.”



                              CHAPTER XIV


Our supper was a little late that night, but it tasted all the better
for that. Before we ate, Mark insisted on our building the two
watch-fires, and somebody was keeping his eyes on the enemy’s country
every minute.

When it gets dark at Lake Ravona it doesn’t just fool around with it; it
gets right down to business and turns out first-quality darkness. There
wasn’t any moon, but there were seven million stars, which only made it
seem blacker than it was. Outside the circle where our fires threw light
you couldn’t see any more than as if you were trying to look through a
black curtain.

Motu and Plunk drew the watch for the first part of the night, and Mark
and I went up to the second floor of the citadel to sleep. Before we
turned in we stepped out on the roof of the porch to look around. Below
we could see the fires blazing, and a dark figure standing by each of
them. Plunk was by the one in front of the citadel, and Motu was near
the other.

“It don’t seem real, does it?” I says.

“Does l-l-look like a dream or somethin’,” says Mark.

“I didn’t mean just what we see—the fires and things—but the whole
mix-up we’re in. Here we are, four boys from Michigan, way up here in
the mountains in a ramshackle hotel by ourselves, when we expected to be
staying at a swell summer resort. That don’t seem real, but when you add
to it that we’ve got a war on our hands all on account of a mysterious
Japanese boy who appears from nowhere, and add to that again that the
enemy is a party of Japanese men trying to get that boy—well, it pretty
nearly flabbergasts me. It ain’t so, that’s all.”

“It is m-m-mysterious,” says Mark. “I’ve been figgerin’ it over quite a
bit.”

“What d’you make of it?”

“Not much. Motu’s the mystery. If we knew what he’s doin’ here, or if we
knew who he was, then we could make a guess. Yes,” he says, sort of
calculating-like, “it’s _who_ and _what_ Motu is that is the real
m-m-mystery.”

“You can bet,” says I, “that he ain’t just a common, every-day boy like
you and me.”

“Never heard of anybody b-b-besiegin’ a citadel just to get their hands
on either of us, did you?”

“Not yet,” says I.

“Motu’s _somebody_ or _somethin’_,” says Mark. “He’s mighty secret about
it, too. Got a right to be if he wants to. But it sure makes me m-mighty
curious.”

“Well,” says I, “we’ll know some day.”

“Can’t tell,” says Mark. “Maybe it’s one of those kind of s-s-secrets
that can’t ever be told.”

“That,” says I, “would be doggone aggravatin’.”

“It would,” says Mark. “Let’s go to bed.”

About the next thing I remember was Plunk shaking me to tell me his
watch was over. It didn’t seem like I’d shut my eyes at all.

“Anything happen?” says I.

“Not a thing,” says he. “They’ve got a big fire, and a couple of them
are sittin’ in front of it. But they haven’t made a move. Just watchin’
us, I guess.”

Mark and I went down to mount guard. Sure enough, they had a big
watch-fire, and a couple of them were crouching in front of it. Mark and
I walked up and down and up and down, but nobody stirred. For hours it
kept on just like that. Somehow I got a feeling that nothing was going
to happen, and I told Mark so.

“Just the t-t-time somethin’s apt to happen,” says he. “The Man Who Will
Come is p-probably tryin’ to make us feel that way, and as soon as we
act careless, _swoop!_ down he’ll be on us.”

But I was right for once. Morning came without a hostile act by the
enemy. It was just five o’clock when Mark and I turned in, and we slept
till nine. We’d have slept longer if Binney hadn’t set up a yell.

“Boat!” he says. “Boat! There’s a boat comin’ down the lake.”

We hustled out to see, pretty hopeful all of a sudden. It looked like
the siege was ended and reinforcements were coming. The boat was way
down at the far end of the lake and we could just see it and two figures
sitting in it, rowing. It was headed our way.

“I’ll bet it’s Mr. Ames come ahead of time,” Binney says, beginning to
dance up and down, he was so excited.

Mark didn’t say anything, and he didn’t look glad, only worried and
puzzled.

“What’s the matter?” says I. “Come on and join the celebration.”

“I never s-s-shoot firecrackers till the Fourth of July,” says he, which
was as much as to tell us we were getting happy ahead of time.

The boat didn’t come very fast, because the wind was blowing right in
its face. When it came near enough so we could make out to see men in it
we could tell they were pretty poor boatmen. They did more splashing
than they did rowing. And then we saw they were Japanese! Somewhere
around the lake they had found an old scow.

“Well,” says Mark, with a long breath, “the enemy’s got a n-navy.”

“Yes,” says I, “and we’d better strengthen our shore-defense batteries.”

“I t-think,” says Mark, “that The Man Who Will Come will try to take the
citadel by s-storm—_once_. He’s due to load his army aboard his navy and
attack. If we can beat them back once he won’t try it again. It’ll be
stratagems we’ll have to look out for.”

“Five boys and a dog,” says Binney.

“More’n that,” says Mark, with the sort of look he wears when he’s got
an unpleasant surprise waiting for somebody. “I calc’late we’ll have
quite a sizable army when the time comes.”

“Goin’ to enlist the fish?” says Plunk.

“Might if I had to,” says Mark, and I’ll bet he _would_ have found some
way to use them if he’d _had_ to.

The Japanese began to stir around and pretty soon they started for the
boat. Mark began giving orders.

“Motu and Plunk, you’re strongest. Get those two long p-p-poles inside;
I’ve put spikes in ’em. Regular p-pike-poles. Use ’em to fend off the
boat. Jab the spikes in the boat and p-push. Keep ’em from touchin’ the
shore. You ought to be able to hold ’em ten feet away.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” says Plunk.

He turned and scooted into the citadel as fast as his size would let
him, and that was faster than you would expect. In a jiffy he was back
with a couple of poles an inch and a half thick and eight feet long,
with a big pad like a boxing-glove on the end of each. He’d been making
them on the quiet while the rest of us were fooling around.

“Tallow and Binney, take these lances,” says he, “When a m-m-man steps
off a boat he isn’t balanced very well. If anybody gets to land jab this
into his stomach and poke him back. Keep the lances handy for close
work. Use your slingshots for artillery. As soon as the boat starts out
open fire. Aim for the f-f-fingers of the men rowin’.”

“What are you aimin’ to do?” says I.

Mark sort of chuckled. “I’m goin’ upstairs where it’s safe,” says he.

That was a joke, all right. Mark Tidd wasn’t the sort of fellow to hunt
a hole when his chums were running risks, so I knew he had some sort of
a scheme whizzing in his head. It stiffened my spine in a second. When
it comes to strategy I take off my hat to Mark.

We kept our eyes on the Japanese, who were getting into the old scow.
They weren’t used to boats and had a pretty tough time pushing off and
getting under way. But when they got started they came like they meant
business.

The Man Who Will Come was standing up in the stern. Two Japs were rowing,
and two sat all ready to attack as soon as they landed. They had to row
about two hundred feet.

Binney and I held our fire till they were a hundred feet off, then we
let fly. We didn’t hit any fingers at that distance, but we knocked some
dust out of a couple of pairs of pants. We could see the Japanese jump
and squirm, for those pebbles hit plenty hard and stung enough to make
anybody wish he had on a suit of armor.

We kept up a steady fire, and Plunk joined in while they were too far
away to reach with his pole. None of us bothered with The Man Who Will
Come. It was the machinery we wanted to damage, and the two rowers were
the engine. I was sort of sorry for those fellows, because they caught
it and caught it good. At last Binney plunked one fellow right on the
knuckles. He got half out of his seat, let out a howl, and dropped his
oar overboard. That made the boat swing around sideways. The Man Who
Will Come didn’t lose his jaunty air for a minute. He just spoke low to
the man, who reached out quick and got his oar.

They pulled around straight and came on again. Binney and I kept on
peppering them good. I had the luck to smack my man on the hand, but he
didn’t drop his oar. He missed a stroke, though.

The Man Who Will Come fixed his round glass in one eye and beamed at us
as jovial as could be.

“Ho, leetle boys, make a stopping. Do not throwing stones. My men will
get to become angry if you hurt them some more.”

“I’ll hurt _you_,” says I, and gave him one for luck.

It struck him on the elbow. Must have hit his funny-bone, I guess, for
he didn’t act quite so happy and began rubbing the spot.

“For that,” says he, “I shall make a spanking on you when you are
caught.”

“It might as well be a _good_ spanking,” says I, and let him have
another.

“F-f-fire volleys,” says Mark Tidd from way up above.

Binney and I tried it. I’d call, “Shoot,” and we’d both let go. Plunk,
too. It worked fine. Mark began to shoot, too, and you know what a shot
he was with the sling. Well, sir, we stopped them. The men at the oars
turned and grumbled something to their commander. He said something
back, but they shook their heads. He stopped smiling and spoke louder in
Japanese. Now he wasn’t smiling, but you could see his teeth just the
same. His eyes were half shut and glinting, and he leaned forward like
he was going to leap.

The men were more afraid of him than they were of getting hurt, for they
picked up their oars once more.

“I’ll t-t-take the commander,” says Mark. “You three ’tend to the
rowers.”

Mark shot fast, and every pebble struck. I could see them spat against
The Man. They were only about thirty feet away now and shooting was
easy. We shot faster than ever. Spat, spat, spat, spat, went the
pebbles. Mark had The Man fidgeting good and plenty, and we had the poor
rowers about as uncomfortable as men can be.

At last it got to be too much for The Man himself, and when the rowers
stopped again he said something, and they turned the boat and began to
retreat. We helped them.

“Ain’t goin’ to spank me to-day, be you?” says I to The Man.

He turned and grinned and waved his little cane. “It is but the
beginning of the commencement,” says he. “Plenty of time for spankings
is yet left remaining.”

“I’ll show you how it feels,” says I, and gave him one right where he’d
have spanked me. He quit standing up without a second’s delay. I guess
he figured he’d rather be hit some place else by a pebble. Well, I
accommodated him.

“Three c-c-cheers,” says Mark, and we all threw our hats in the air and
yelled.

It was the first big battle of the campaign. They had tried a straight
frontal attack, as Mark called it, but Mark’s strategy and his
disposition of his artillery had won the battle. So far we had come out
ahead every place from the beginning. But the end was a long way off.

“Don’t leave your places,” says Mark. “They’ll be back.”



                               CHAPTER XV


The enemy rowed back and got out of their boat. Some of them acted
pretty lame, too. They hunched around and rubbed sore spots, while we
gave them the laugh. All of them went up to the hotel, where, after a
while, we heard them hammering and hammering.

“B-buildin’ a modern navy,” says Mark. “Wooden vessels went out of style
when the _Monitor_ steamed into Hampton Roads.”

“Slingshots’ll go out of style, too, won’t they?” says I.

“They won’t be quite so useful, anyhow,” Mark says, “but I calc’late
we’d better hang onto ’em.”

Motu’s eyes were shining. He looked about as happy as I’ve ever seen
anybody look.

“It was a great battle,” says he. “My father has told me stories of the
battles of ancient warriors of Japan. This was like them. When I come
again to my country this day shall be spoken of with pride by my family,
and in after-years my descendants shall tell their children of it.”

“Wait a bit,” says Mark, “and your decendants’ll have m-m-more to brag
about. This day’s battle ain’t over yet by several shots.”

“The more fighting the more glory,” says Motu.

Now I didn’t feel that way about it. The more fighting the more bother,
was my notion. I’d had plenty. My appetite was fed up, and I didn’t have
any use for a second helping. But I didn’t come of a race of warriors. I
expect my way of looking at it is the American way. We don’t fight for
glory, but only when it’s necessary, and then we want it over with and
done as soon as possible, just as we do any other disagreeable job that
may come along.

“Look,” says Binney.

Around the corner of the hotel came four Japanese, carrying a sort of
fence made of an old strip of carpet nailed on posts. They took it down
to the boat and The Man showed them how to set it up and nail it in
place so that the front and both sides of the craft were sheltered. With
that armor a fellow couldn’t see the rowers at all; in fact, the whole
five of them could sit in the boat and we couldn’t get a crack at them.

“Here’s where we get it,” says I to Mark.

“Maybe,” says he, “but you f-f-fellows fend off with your pike-poles,
and, Tallow and Binney, you ’tend to anybody that reaches over to meddle
with the poles while they’re holdin’ the boat. Get the idea? So long as
we can hold off the boat n-nobody can land, and we can hold off the boat
as l-long as our pike-poles are left alone.”

Well, sir, you’ll have to admit Mark was some general. That pike-pole
idea was a dandy, and, in spite of their new armor, our slingshots would
be useful a heap. And then, there was Mark up on the balcony of the
third floor, and he could shoot right down on top of the Japs.

“Motu,” says I, “I guess those old warriors of your’n never had a better
general than Mark Tidd.”

He just grinned.

Now the enemy was ready to attack again. They boarded their man-of-war
and pushed off, and a funny-looking ship they had. Of course the rowers
couldn’t see where they were going, and so somebody had to stand up to
direct them. The Man took the job of being pilot, so we had something to
shoot at from the beginning.

This time there was no chance of damaging the motive power, but we could
make the pilot wish he had a periscope. It was lucky for us they didn’t
have a submarine.

They came on steady and sure until they got in range. Then they kept on
just as steady, only we kept The Man hopping. By the time they got
within a hundred feet we had him ducking his head behind the armor plate
and only sticking it up to take a peek every little while. The result of
that was that the boat did quite a considerable bit of zigzagging.

However, they kept coming, and at last they were near enough so Mark
Tidd could get a shot at them from his station above. He shot fast and
often, and I expect those Japs wished their leader had put a roof on
their shelter.

But, no matter how straight and how fast he could shoot, one boy
couldn’t hold off the boat with a sling. Besides, it was difficult
shooting. So, in a couple of minutes they got dangerously near to shore.

“P-p-pike-poles!” yelled Mark.

Motu and Plunk were ready. They jabbed their spikes into the bow of the
boat and pushed. The boat stopped sudden and swung sideways. Plunk let
go and ran along till he could spear the boat near the stern, and there
they held her. The Japs tried to row, but Binney and I grabbed our
lances with the boxing-glove pads on the end and poked at their paddles
so they couldn’t do a thing.

The Man yelled something in Japanese, and the rowers pulled in their
oars. In a second one of them stood up suddenly and smashed at Plunk’s
pike-pole with his oar-blade. He might have hit if it hadn’t been for
Mark and Binney. Both of them smacked him good with pebbles and he
ducked. The best part of it was that he dropped his oar. Before they
could do anything to recover it Mark yelled to me to get it, which I did
with my pike. It was the first trophy of the war, and something to brag
about like real soldiers do when they report they’ve captured so many of
the enemy’s cannon, or some such thing.

The next thing they tried was a little more skilful, but it didn’t work
much better. A man lifted the carpet armor a little at the bottom and
shoved through his arm. He tried to grab the pike and jerk it away from
Motu, but Motu had jabbed in his spike good, and he pushed like a
Trojan. The man didn’t make much headway, and after we’d peppered his
knuckles a couple of times he didn’t seem anxious to keep it up. He let
go, and for a couple of minutes nothing happened. I guess The Man Who
Will Come was holding a council of war with himself.

After that they tried poking their oars through and punching at the
pike-poles with them, and that was a better scheme than any of the rest,
for there wasn’t anything for our artillery to aim at. But they had to
go it blind. Nobody seemed to want to stand up to see just where they
were poking, so they didn’t have very good luck at it. A few times they
thumped off one of the pike-poles, but before it did them any good Plunk
or Motu would jab it in again, and they were no further ahead than
before.

“Hey!” says Mark to The Man, “don’t you know history t-t-teaches that
land defenses can’t be taken with a n-navy alone?”

“We take, all right,” says The Man from behind his shelter. “We take and
then comes punishings. Ho! we shall see.”

“Better give it up,” says Mark. “We’ll let you go with honors of war.”

“No. You have our bad leetle Japanese boy. Give him up to us and we make
lovely speed away without spankings. Nobody shall have a spanking.”

“Glad to h-hear that,” says Mark. “We’d hate to be s-s-spanked.”

“You give him up? Yes?”

“We’ll give him up, no,” says Mark.

At that, quick as a wink, The Man stood up in the boat with an oar in
his hand. Of course all three of us shot and shot like fury, but before
we could stop him he swung his oar over his head and brought it down on
Plunk’s pike-pole. The pike-pole snapped and Plunk dropped his end like
it was hot. I guess it must have stung his hands some.

The boat was held only by Motu’s pike-pole now, and its stern began to
swing toward the shore. That wasn’t so bad, because there was no armor
plate around the back, and we could shoot right through. We didn’t miss
any time doing it, and the way they scrambled to swing their navy around
was a caution.

It was only a question of time now, and we all knew it. The Man could
stand up as soon as he was ready and smash Motu’s pole the same way he
did Plunk’s, and then we fellows would have to join battle with our
lances.

But it didn’t come to lances just then. All of a sudden Mark Tidd yelled
to look out. I looked up instead and saw him leaning over the edge of
the balcony with a big pail in his hands. He held it like he didn’t like
the job very well. I could see he had a cover on it and was pretty
careful to keep the cover in place.

“L-l-look out, fellows!” says he again, and then heaved over the pail.
It struck square in the middle of the boat and in a second I heard a
sound I recognized. It was an angry sound, the kind of a sound you want
to get away from. And right on top of it we heard a yell, and then
another yell, and the sound of a wild scramble in the boat.

But through all the noise the Japanese made I could hear that low, angry
sound. It was a sort of humming, singing, stinging buz-zzz-zzzz.

“Whee!” I yelled. “Reinforcements have arrived. Whoop!”

It was reinforcements, all right. More than a million of ’em, I guess,
and a million of the best and meanest fighters in the world. We could
begin to see them now, a regular cloud of them, and we could see the
enemy was in a bad way. They yelled and slapped and scrambled and
squealed while our allies went for them. Then they began a retreat that
was a rout. With only three oars left they started rowing for the other
shore, and, in spite of the speed they made, which was considerable,
I’ll bet it was the longest ride they ever took.

Just before they got to shore a Japanese stood up and jumped out of the
boat, waving his arms around his head and yelling. Another was right on
his heels, and the rest followed in quick order. The Man Who Will Come
wasn’t last, either. They laid right down under the water with nothing
showing but their noses—and our allies kept them there. Every time a
hand showed one of our friends made a dash for it.

“I t-t-told you reinforcements were goin’ to come,” says Mark, all
doubled up with laugh.

They _had_ come, and a sort of reinforcement I wouldn’t have wanted to
call on. I wouldn’t have known how to use them if I’d wanted to. Friends
like those are hard to handle. Sometimes they don’t quite detect the
difference between the folks you want them to attack and you. In fact,
our allies were the sort of fighters who take a lot of pleasure in
attacking anybody, friend or foe.

They were hornets! Regular old warrior hornets! It was a nest of them,
’most as big as a bushel basket, that Mark had thrown down into the
boat. It was as bad as a dynamite bomb and more painful, though not
quite so dangerous.

While our little fighters were keeping the enemies’ minds occupied, they
forgot their navy, and it floated off slow.

“Tallow,” says Mark, and pointed.

I wasn’t crazy about the job he’d picked out for me; not that I was
afraid of the Japanese just then—they had all they wanted to look
for—but I was afraid of the hornets. However, there was nothing for it
but to obey orders. If Mark Tidd had the nerve to use their nest for a
bomb, I had the nerve to go get that boat. So I plunged in, clothes and
all, and swam across.

It wasn’t any trick at all to tow back the man-of-war, and not a hornet
got me. I calculate they were all busy with the Japanese.

Well, I dragged the boat to shore, and we all celebrated. It was a great
victory all around. Mark said it ought to be one of the Fifteen Decisive
Battles of the World. We’d licked the enemy, we’d captured their whole
navy, and, to cap the climax, we’d captured the little cane that
belonged to The Man Who Will Come. That was a battle trophy worth
having. Some day we’re going to send it to Washington to be put up in a
case in the national war museum.

It was an hour before the broken and scattered forces of the enemy dared
come out of the water, and when they did they didn’t look as though they
would be able to take the offensive again for quite a while to come.
They were covered with bumps and swellings and they limped and groaned
and muttered.

“P-p-put mud on the stings,” Mark called to them. “It’ll take the f-fire
out.”

Not one of them said a word. They just mogged along to the hotel, a
pretty unhappy lot.

“Did you get stung much?” I asked Mark.

“Not once,” says he, with a grin.

“How ever did you work it?” says Plunk.

“Well,” says Mark, tickled to be getting some more admiration, “I
f-found that nest the other day and sat down to figger out how we could
use it. It wasn’t hard to figger what to do with it, but it took more
calc’latin’ to f-f-find _how_ to do what I wanted to. But there’s always
some way.”

Now that was just like Mark Tidd. Always some way. He believed that. It
didn’t matter what happened, or what had to be done, he knew there was
_some_ way to do it, and usually he’d figure and plan and calculate till
he found it.

“I got the idee,” he went on, “to take the n-nest in a pail and keep the
hornets in with a cover. So, when I n-needed ’em I sneaked up and shoved
the pail over the nest gentle-like and cautious. Then, mighty quick, I
can t-t-tell you, I cut down the nest with the cover and s-s-slapped the
cover on the pail. It was as easy as p-p-pie.”

“Yes,” says I, “and it made it easy for the enemy.”

Well, that was the last we saw of those Japanese _that_ day. I guess the
whole army went into the hospital. But we didn’t feel like organizing
any Red Cross to help their wounded. Not much.



                              CHAPTER XVI


Next morning we saw a little procession come out of the hotel. Walking
ahead was The Man, as jaunty as ever, or at least trying to be. A man
can’t be very jaunty with a limp in his left leg and his eyes swelled
’most shut with hornet stings. Behind him were three Japanese carrying
bundles over their shoulders. It looked like they were abandoning the
siege.

“Hey, Mark!” I yelled. “Come look! The war’s over.”

He came hustling and watched the Japanese till they traveled out of
sight around the bend of the road.

“We licked ’em,” says I.

“Tallow,” says Mark, “you m-may be right. I hope so. But—I calc’late you
ain’t.”

“Then what are they goin’ away for?”

“To make you think what you thought,” says he. “And,” he says, “where’s
the fifth man?”

Would you believe it, but I hadn’t noticed the fifth man wasn’t there.
That did make it look a bit fishy until I had an idea. “Maybe he was on
guard across the lake,” says I.

Mark nodded. “Maybe so,” he says, “but I guess we won’t l-l-lower the
drawbridge, for all that. If Motu’s worth gettin’ he’s worth tryin’ for
harder’n those f-fellows have tried. And if I’m any judge The Man Who
Will Come isn’t a quitter.”

“A nest of hornets’ll make ’most anybody quit,” says I.

“Yes,” says he, “but we’re just out of h-hornets—and he knows it. He
knows we can’t be f-f-firin’ hornet bombs at him every trip.”

“What do you figger they’re goin’ to do, then?”

“Somethin’ we don’t f-f-figger on,” says he, with a grin. “That man has
got a scheme, I’ll bet, and it’ll be harder to beat him when he schemes
than when he just f-f-fights.”

“Well?” says I.

“Well,” says he, “we’ll get to work strengthenin’ our defenses. Plunk
and Binney keep watch—and a sharp watch, t-t-too. You and Motu come
along.”

I’ve told you that the citadel was three stories high. The lower floor
had been an old boat-house; the second and third floors had been
sleeping-rooms for the help and storage. There was just one stairway
leading up, and that was outside. It started from the platform facing
the hotel and went up to the first balcony; then it took another start
from there and went up to the balcony of the third floor. There wasn’t
any other way to get up.

“Here’s our secondary l-line of defense,” says Mark, when we got to the
stairs. “We’ll fix ’em so’s they’ll be hard to climb. S’pose the enemy
should make a landin’ on the island. Well, we’ll retreat to the second
floor—and there won’t be any stairs to climb up to us on.”

“Goin’ to chop ’em down?”

“No,” says he. “Goin’ to p-p-pull ’em up.”

“Can’t be done,” says I. “They’re nailed down.”

“I’ll show you,” says he.

There were some old tools in the boat-house and we got them out. First
we drew the nails that held down the bottom of the stairs. Next we
braced the stairs so they couldn’t fall, and sawed through the
side-pieces at the top. Mark fixed these just like he had fixed the
drawbridge—with hinges. When that was all done he drove staples in the
lower step, fastened a rope to them, and led it through another staple
in the roof. The end of the rope he tied to a nail at the top of the
stairs where it would be handy.

“Let’s try her,” says I.

We did, and the stairs came up as easy as falling off a log—just raised
up against the floor above, and didn’t leave a thing to come up on. We
lowered them again and braced them with two-by-fours. After that we
fixed the stairs between the third and second floors the same way.

“I guess we’ll be pretty d-d-difficult to get at up here,” says Mark.
And I thought so, too.

“Bring the lances,” says Mark. And I got them and put them handy at the
top of the first stairway.

“Now,” says he, “barrin’ a surprise, we’re in pretty good shape.”

When we were all through we were pretty tired and sat down on the ground
under the spruce-trees to rest. Mark had a book and I got out a Boston
paper we had brought with us. It was pretty nearly a week old, but I
figured there might be something interesting in it, for all that.

I sort of browsed around in it without finding anything to get excited
about, till I came to the third or fourth page, but there was a little
piece about two inches long that told how the Japanese minister to the
United States had taken a summer place at Fullington in the State we
were in, and was planning to stay there till the 1st of September. It
told a little about the house and grounds, but that wasn’t so
interesting.

“Mark,” says I, “listen.” And I read it to him. “Do you s’pose Motu’s
got anythin’ to do with him?” I whispered it so Motu wouldn’t hear. He
was a dozen feet off and dozing, anyhow.

“Somehow,” says Mark, “I b’lieve this would be as much news to Motu as
it is to us.”

“Funny thing,” says I, “that the Japanese minister would be in this
State, and that Motu would be here, and that five other Japs would be if
there wasn’t some connection.”

“Don’t b’lieve it,” says he. “We’ll see.” He turned and called Motu, who
opened his eyes quick and sprang up. “No danger,” says Mark, with a
grin, “just wanted to ask you a question.”

“Of course,” says Motu, “I shall be glad to answer.”

“Did you know,” says Mark, “that the minister f-f-from your country had
taken a summer home in this State?”

“_What?_” says Motu, excited in a second.

“He has,” says Mark. “Near Fullington, wherever that is. Let’s see.”

Mark always carried one of those little pocket dictionaries with maps of
all the States, and how to tell the number of board feet in a log, and
how to get a sliver out of your finger, and how many folks live in
Timbuctoo, and how many ounces in a pound, and the area of Greenland,
and such-like wisdom. He took it out and found our State and began
looking for Fullington. In a minute he found it, and according to the
map it was about half an inch from our town.

“F-f-fifty miles to the inch,” says Mark. “Then Fullington’s only about
twenty-five miles from here.”

“From town,” says I. “We’re ten miles from town. Maybe Fullington’s in
the other direction.”

“No,” says he, “it’s almost n-north, and _we’re_ almost north. So
Fullington can’t be more’n f-f-fifteen miles.”

Mark stopped and looked at Motu. Motu was sitting with his chin in his
hands, looking off across the lake, and if I ever saw anybody thinking
hard, he was doing it then. We waited quite a while, but Motu kept right
on thinking, just as if we weren’t there with curiosity oozing out of
every inch of us. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Did you know he was there?” I asked.

“No,” says Motu. “It was great surprise to me.”

“Do you know him?” says I.

Motu kind of hesitated. “I have seen him in my own country,” says he.
“Yes, I have even spoken with him.”

“A minister to the United States is a pretty great man, isn’t he?” says
I.

“He is a great man and a good man and a wise man,” says Motu. Then he
says to himself, like he had forgotten about us again: “Fifteen
miles.... Only fifteen miles.”

Mark winked at me and we got up and went away as quiet as we could. Motu
never noticed us go, but just looked out across the lake and thought and
thought and thought.

“I wonder if Motu’s any relation to the minister from Japan?” I says.
“Maybe it’s his father.”

“If the m-m-minister was his father Motu would be apt to know where he
lived,” says Mark, a bit sarcastic.

“He was a heap interested in the news that the minister was in
Fullington,” says I.

“I can’t make him out. He didn’t seem glad, exactly,” says Mark. “He
didn’t seem s-s-sorry, either. Just interested—and speculatin’. I’ll bet
that right now Motu’s figgerin’ whether the minister can do him any
good, and if he can how we’re to get to him.”

“Maybe Motu wouldn’t want him to know he was besieged here.”

“I was thinkin’ that,” says Mark. “But,” he went on, after he’d scowled
and pinched his cheek for a couple of minutes, “I think it would be a
g-g-good thing if the minister _did_ know it—if word was got to him that
Motu was here and what was goin’ on. Maybe he wouldn’t be int’rested a
cent’s worth, and maybe he’d be willin’ to give a whole heap to know.”

“Anyhow,” says I, “he _don’t_ know, and, furthermore, he ain’t likely to
find out very soon.”

“Tallow,” says Mark, sort of solemn, “I believe Motu’s somebody
p-p-pretty important. This ain’t just an ordinary scrape we’re in.
S’pose somebody important in Japan should come to the United States and
somethin’ unpleasant should h-h-happen to him. It would sort of reflect
on the United States, wouldn’t it? To be sure it would. Besides, how
would f-f-folks in Japan look at it? From all I can gather they don’t
love the United States much. Havin’ somethin’ happen to a person they
honor would make ’em mad, wouldn’t it?”

“Likely to,” says I, “but ’tain’t likely the Japanese nation would get
much excited over one boy—or honor him much, either. Motu’s all right
and I like him, but I don’t see as he’s any more wonderful than the rest
of us. Well, the whole United States isn’t honorin’ you and me much, are
they? I rather guess not. Then neither is Japan honorin’ a boy, either.”

“Japan’s different. They’ve got emperors and princes and dukes and such
over there. Guess they’d honor a b-b-boy emperor, wouldn’t they?”

“You don’t calc’late Motu’s Emperor of Japan, do you?”

“No, nor a prince, either, nor yet a duke. But he’s somebody besides the
feller that s-s-sells peanuts on the corner, you can bet.”

“What if he is? What are we goin’ to do about it?”

“Wish I knew.... If there was s-s-some way of doin’ it I’d send word to
the minister at Fullington, and l-let him do what he wanted to. I
wouldn’t say anythin’ to Motu about it.”

“But you can’t.”

“It l-looks that way. If you’re right and the Japanese have gone, then
there ain’t any need to send. If they h-haven’t gone—and I don’t much
think they have—why, they wouldn’t let a messenger get past.”

“Correct,” says I.

“But,” says he, “we m-m-might as well get ready to take advantage of
anythin’ that h-happened.”

“How?” says I.

“By gettin’ the m-m-message all ready to send,” says he.

He went mogging off into the citadel where he had some paper and ink and
stamps to write to his folks with, and there he sat down and wrote a
letter.

    The Minister from Japan [it began].

    Dear Sir,—Are you interested in a Japanese boy named Motu,
    who owns a short sword with things carved on the blade of
    it? He is a Samurai, I guess. Anyhow, he talks about them.
    He is here in an old hotel on Lake Ravona with four American
    boys. They are besieged by five Japanese men who want to
    capture Motu. So far we have beaten them. The leader of the
    enemy is a Japanese man who wears one round eyeglass and
    carries a cane and wears a Bankok hat and dresses like a
    dude. He is dangerous, all right. If you are interested you
    had better hurry along, because things are getting pretty
    shaky. I never wrote to any Japanese ministers before, so I
    hope this letter has not done any harm.

                                Yours truly,
                                Marcus Aurelius Fortunatus Tidd.

Mark read it over and then says: “I thought I’d better sign my whole
n-n-name when I was writing to a man like that. It l-looks better than
just Mark Tidd.”

“It looks longer, anyhow,” says I. “Now what’ll we do with the letter?
Throw it overboard in a bottle?”

“Not quite; but we’ll put it in an envelope with a stamp on it, and if a
c-c-chance comes we’ll either d-d-deliver it or mail it.”

“Here’s hopin’,” says I, “that the chance comes pretty quick.”



                              CHAPTER XVII


“Tallow,” says Mark, “have you got the n-n-nerve to swim this lake in
the dark?”

“I’d do it in daytime,” says I. “It can’t be half a mile across, and I
could make that like rollin’ off a log. But night’s a different thing.”

I went out and took a look at the lake. It began to look wider to me.
That’s always the way with things. If you’re not going to jump across a
hole the hole don’t look wide, but just you step up to it ready to jump
and it seems to stretch out about twice as big as it was before.

“If I could only have some kind of a mark to steer by—a light or
somethin’.”

“There’s that big h-hemlock,” says Mark, pointing. “That will s-s-stick
up against the sky, and you could head for it.”

“Well,” says I, “I’ll try it, but I’d rather go to an ice-cream
festival. It’ll be pretty chilly.”

“We’ll rub lard on you,” says Mark.

“Rather have it in pie crust,” I says, for the idea of being greased up
from top to toe didn’t set well on my stomach.

“I’ve been t-thinkin’ things over,” says Mark, “and it looks to me like
it was our duty to try to get this letter sent to the Japanese
minister.”

“It’s a shame,” says I, “that there ain’t more swimmers in this crowd.
I’ll turn into a fish.”

“You’d better start about an hour before s-s-sun-up,” says Mark. “That
will get you safe to shore before daylight. Then strike for the road and
wait for s-s-somebody to come along. Give ’em the letter to mail.”

“Sure,” says I, “and what about comin’ back?”

“Better get back as soon’s you can. They’re l-likely to make some kind
of an attack.”

“All right,” says I, “but I calc’late I’ll want to lay around a spell in
the sun and rest up.”

“Take some t-t-towels with you,” says Mark.

“What for? Be as wet as I would.”

“Shucks! Use your head. D-d-didn’t expect to carry ’em in your mouth,
did you? No. Well, just put ’em in a dishpan and float ’em ahead of you.
Then you can rub yourself hard and get up circulation. Get you warm in a
jiffy.”

“Put in my shoes, too,” says I. “Climbin’ over the rocks ain’t good for
bare feet.”

We didn’t see a Japanese before I went to bed, which was pretty early,
because I wanted to get in a good sleep. I got it, too. Shouldn’t wonder
if I’m close to being the world’s prize sleeper. Anyhow, I come next to
Mark. But he can wake up when he wants to. I never wake up till somebody
gets rough with me.

Mark did just that—got rough with me—about three o’clock in the morning,
and I turned out in the chilliest morning air you ever felt. It seemed
like it would frost-bite you as fast as you got out from under the
covers into it. Honest, it was just like sticking your feet into
ice-water to shove them out of bed. Right there I lost my ambition to go
swimming.

“I guess,” says I, “that I’ve done about all the letter-writin’ to the
Japanese minister that I need to. I don’t owe him any letter.”

“’Tis chilly,” says Mark, and he grinned and sort of wriggled all over
like he enjoyed something.

“I wish it was you goin’,” says I. “Maybe you wouldn’t giggle so hard.”

“Water’ll be warmer t-t-than the air,” says he.

“It could do that and still freeze you to death,” I says, as cross as
two sticks. “Gimme the letter.”

I wrapped a blanket around me to keep me alive till I got to the water.
Mark had the dishpan all ready with the towels and my shoes tied into
it, and the letter under them.

“Now,” says he, “git off the end of the island and s-s-slide in
cautious. Likely we’re bein’ watched every second.”

I went off alone into the dark and for once I wished I’d never seen Mark
Tidd. I wished he hadn’t moved to Wicksville, and I wished he wasn’t
fat, and I wished he didn’t stutter. I just wished he _wasn’t_ at all.
But when I got into the water I felt better. It was surprising how warm
and comfortable the water was, after the air. I swam easy and slow till
I could get my bearings. It was pretty dark, but not so dark but what I
could see the black shape of the old hemlock against the sky. When I had
it located I laid low and steered for it.

It was a good long swim, but I had swum distances enough to know better
than to tire myself out at the start. I just mogged along, stopping to
float every once in a while, and before I knew it I was across. It
hadn’t been anything. The worst part was the lonesomeness of it and the
thought that came a couple of times; what would I do if I got cramps?
Ugh!

But I didn’t. I made it—and then had to get out into that air again.
Wow! Cold? It was as cold as Greenland multiplied by Iceland, with
Hudson’s Bay thrown in to fill the basket.

You better guess that I grabbed those towels and began to rub myself. I
rubbed and scrubbed till the skin was ready to come off like the peel of
an orange. But it did warm me just like Mark said it would. After I was
tired rubbing I picked out an open space and capered up and down in it.
I expect I looked like a luny there in the woods without anything on but
a towel tied around the middle of me, and me doing some sort of wild
Injun dance all by myself. I almost had to laugh.

Pretty soon it began to grow light and I made for the road, going pretty
careful. There was no telling where those Japanese might be. It was
lucky I did go careful, too, for I hadn’t gone a quarter of a mile
before I smelled smoke and in a minute saw the glow of a fire.

Right there I stopped navigation. When I went ahead again it was at
quarter speed with my hand on the throttle. You’ve heard about Injuns
and how still they can go through the woods. Well, that morning I beat
any Injun Cooper ever read about. I made so little noise that the woods
were stiller than if I hadn’t been there at all.

The fire was down in a little hollow. I skirted around it, but near
enough so I could see who was camping there. It was two Japanese, one
asleep, the other watching. I laughed inside. He wasn’t doing as good a
job of watching as he thought he was. I could have plunked him with my
slingshot, and I had half a mind to do it. But common sense came along
just then and I made tracks away.

One thing was sure. The Japanese hadn’t left us. They were trying to
bamboozle us into getting careless, just as Mark had said.

It got lighter and lighter as I went along, and after a while I came to
the road. The first thing I did was to find a sheltered place where I
could keep out of the breeze, watch the road, and be out of sight. Then
I started in to wait.

Waiting is the meanest job in the world. I’d rather do ’most anything
else than wait. You keep thinking every minute that what you’re waiting
for will be along, and then when it don’t come you get impatient, and
then you get irritable, and then you get mad, and after a long while you
just sit there and chaw your knuckles and wish there was somebody to
kick.

I’d got to the kicking stage when I heard something coming from away
from town. A man was talking.

“Don’t yuh stop,” he says. “Keep on a-goin’. Jest shove one foot ahead
and then foller it with another. If yuh stop agin I calc’late to most
take the hide offn you. Whup! Wiggle your ears if you want to. G’wan,
now.”

In a minute along came a mule with ears about a foot long. He was a
humorous-looking mule, with a sort of twinkle in his eye. He was
dragging a two-wheeled thing the like of which I’d never seen before,
and in it was the disappointedest-looking man you ever saw. He wasn’t a
big man, nor a little man. He was just an in-between man. Not only in
size, but I guess in everything else. He was shabby, and his hat was
battered, and he hadn’t shaved for about two weeks. My, but he looked
mournful!

All the time he kept talking to his mule, begging him to keep on going
and not to stop, till I stepped out in the road and said good morning.

The mule stopped and spread all four legs like he wasn’t willing to be
pushed in any direction. He looked like something that somebody had
braced up so the wind wouldn’t blow it down.

“Good mornin’?” says the man, making a question of it. “Good mornin’
nothin’. Look what you’ve up and done. You’ve stopped my automobeel.
Dumbdest enjine in this here automobeel you ever seen.”

“Sorry I stopped him,” says I, “but I just had to do it.”

The man sighed. “Well, young feller, ’tain’t as if I wasn’t used to it.
It’s startin’ that hurts my feelin’s. Why, when this here automobeel of
mine decides to start it s’prises me so I come nigh to fallin’ off my
seat!”

“No!” says I, like I was astonished.

“Yes,” says he. “Honest. D’yuh know, I bought this here outfit to travel
in. To git from one place to another place. I kind of had it in mind to
make a bid for the job of carryin’ mail on the rooral free delivery.
That’s what I done. So I bought me this here automobeel. Then d’yuh know
what I done?”

“No,” says I.

“I built me a garage,” says he, pronouncing garage as though you spelled
it garagh. “Yes, sir. I up and built me one of them garages. Fine one it
was, too. Roof on to it and four sides and a door. Got it done. Looked
fust class. Then what did I do but run this here automobeel up alongside
and show the garage to him.” He stopped and rubbed his nose with his
sleeve.

“What did he do?” says I.

“Do? Why, young feller, he done what he’s doin’ now! He reached out with
his four hoofs and took a holt of the ground and hung on. Ever try to
pull a cat offn your coat when she’s a notion she wants to stay with you
and sticks her claws into the cloth? To be sure. This here automobeel of
mine’s jest like that. He hung on to the ground, and would he go in? No,
he would not. Not any. That was two weeks ago, and he hain’t been in
yet. I’m a-goin’ to take the advice of a hoss-doctor, that’s what I be.
The critter’s out of his head.”

“What did you do with him nights?”

“Jest left him. He liked it. Give this here automobeel of mine his
choice between standin’ with his legs braced, and eatin’ a peck of oats,
and he’ll pick the standin’ every time. Ornery! Jim Sloan says why
didn’t I p’int his hind quarters toward the garage and pull the other
way. Figgered the contrairiness of the critter’d cause him to back off
and go plumb where I wanted him to. Did it work? Naw. Couldn’t fool him.
Not a mite. All the movin’ he done was sideways. Got a scheme now,
though.”

“What is it?” says I.

“Goin’ to peg him down. Four pegs, one to each leg. Hold him tight. Then
I’ll git help and move the garage over him. He! he! he! Guess that’ll
s’prise him some.”

“Better put your garage on wheels so’s it’ll be easy to wheel it
around,” says I. “Then you can push it over him every night.”

“Young feller,” says the man, “that’s a noble idee. It’s wuth the money.
Glad you stopped me.”

“Much obliged,” says I. “What I stopped you for was to get you to carry
a letter for me. Just drop it in the post-office.”

“Any hurry, young feller?”

“Sort of pressin’,” says I.

“I’ll do my best, but I hain’t guaranteein’ nothin’. May be a week ’fore
I post it. How far you calc’late I live up the road?”

“Haven’t any idea,” says I.

“Four miles. How long you calc’late I’ve been gittin’ to here?”

“Half an hour,” says I.

“Ho! Half an hour! I swan! Young feller, I’ve been clost to two days and
a night. Started from home that long ago. Spent most of the time beggin’
this here automobeel of mine to move. Rests an hour, then gits a move on
for a hundred feet, then rests an hour. Calc’late I’ll git to town along
’bout Christmas.”

“Well,” says I, “you ain’t encouragin’, but you’re the best chance I’ve
got. Here’s the letter. And much obliged.”

“Welcome,” says he. “Wonder if it’ll go. Dumbdest engine ever was in a
automobeel.”

I went off and left him pulling and hauling at the mule’s ears, trying
to get him to start. For fifteen minutes I could hear him arguing with
the critter, and then I passed out of sight. I’d been gone from the
island and the citadel about four hours and a half, I figured.



                             CHAPTER XVIII


I started to swim back, pushing my dishpan ahead of me. The sun began to
warm things up and it was a lot more comfortable than it had been on my
first trip across. I just poked along, enjoying myself and hoping
breakfast would be kept warm for me. That was as near as I came to
having breakfast for quite some time. When I got back to the citadel I
had something to think about besides eating; in fact, I had before I got
to the citadel.

I was about a hundred yards from the citadel and going easy when I heard
a splashing off to one side. I raised up, and there, not two hundred
feet away, was a raft with two Japanese on it. They hadn’t seen me, but
were making for the citadel as fast as they could go. I got as low in
the water as was possible to anything but a fish, and put on full steam.
It was lucky they had such a clumsy raft and such rotten paddles or I
couldn’t have made as good time as they did, but I managed to keep ahead
and gain a little.

When I got close to shore I raised my head and let out a bellow:

“Mark Tidd! Hey! Look out!”

I hadn’t seen anybody around the citadel and thought maybe the Japanese
were going to take them by surprise—and I was right, as I found out
later. Plunk had been on watch, and because he was all tired out he had
gone to sleep for a few minutes. My yell woke him up, and the rest of
them, too. After that things moved fast.

I got to shore and made a dash for some clothes. I wanted more on than a
towel if there was going to be a fight. Pants and a shirt aren’t exactly
armor, but fighting with nothing on at all does make you feel sort of
_exposed_. I ducked up the stairs, and as I went I happened to look
across to the other side of the island. There came wallowing another
raft with two Japanese on it. We were being attacked from two sides.

I gave another yell. Mark came rushing out and saw what was going on.

“G-g-git into your clothes quick,” says he; and I did.

When I came out both rafts were near the shore and Mark and Plunk and
Binney were shooting at them with their slingshots, but their attention
was divided. I joined in with Plunk, but in a jiffy we saw a third raft
coming for the end of our island with The Man Who Will Come on it. Three
sides to defend!

“Ho, Mark!” I yelled. “Here comes another detachment.”

He just took one look. “Make for the citadel,” says he. “Up-stairs,
quick, and p-p-pull the stairs after you.”

My, but he was excited! and the way he stuttered sounded like hail
falling on a tin roof.

We didn’t lose a minute, but made for the stairs and hauled them up.
When we were safe on the second floor Plunk says:

“What’s this for? Now they can land all they want to.”

“Yes,” says Mark. “We’d ’a’ had a f-fine chance to keep them off. Three
parties of ’em. We might have kept off one or two, but some of ’em would
have been sure to l-land, and where’d we have been? It was good
strategy. They forced us to retreat—but it would have been rotten
strategy for us to have stood and fought. As it is we drew off our army
without l-l-loss and occupied a strong defensive position. If we’d
stayed we might have lost an army corps or so.”

“Wish we had one of them aeroplanes,” says Plunk.

“We hain’t,” says I. “Nor we hain’t got balloons nor submarines. We
hain’t got anythin’—not even a chance.”

“We’ve got a chance,” says Mark, sharp-like, “till we’re driven off the
roof. We’ll make the enemy take this floor, and then we’ll r-r-retreat
to the next, and then, by Jimminy! we’ll take to the roof. I don’t want
to hear any more talk about no chance. We’ve got all the chance we
need.”

All this time we were keeping our eyes on the Japanese, who had landed
and seemed sort of surprised they did it so easy. They came
cautious-like, because I guess we’d made them think a bit in the last
fight and they didn’t want to walk _slam_ into a trap. They gathered off
among the spruce-trees and had a council of war. Then they came toward
the citadel in a body, with The Man walking ahead.

He was considerable improved, but it would be several days before he’d
be fit to go to a party. His eye-glass was there, and his dude clothes,
but we had his cane. Somehow he didn’t look natural without it. It
seemed like that cane was a part of him, like it had grown on him.

They came up close, and then Mark gave the word to fire. We let them
have several good licks with our slingshots, and they backed off for
another talk. Next time they came on the run, and before we could pelt
them enough to do any good they were under the gallery where we couldn’t
hit them. But we could hear them moving around, and, by laying down on
our stomachs, we could see them through cracks between the boards.

First they went inside, looking for a stairway, but of course they
didn’t find any. We were just out of stairways and didn’t expect to get
any more for quite a while.

We held a council of war ourselves.

“There’s just t-three ways they can get up,” says Mark. “One is to get
the stairs lowered, one is to climb up over the front balcony with
l-l-ladders, and the last is to get into a second-story window on the
west side with a ladder. They can’t attack the back. The water keeps ’em
off t-t-there.”

“If I was goin’ to attack,” says I, “I’d send three men and maybe four
to come up ladders to the front balcony. While they were bangin’ around
there, attractin’ attention, I’d have one man sneak up into one of those
west windows, and come creeping across behind us to cut down the
stairs.”

“G-good for you, Tallow,” says Mark. “How would you guard against it?”

“Why,” says I, after scratching my head a minute, “I guess I’d fasten
the windows so nobody could get in.”

“F-f-first class,” says Mark. “Now if we could only think of some way to
f-fasten ’em.”

“Why,” says I, “they’ve got fasteners!”

“Yes,” says he, “but how about the glass! They could b-burst it and
reach in to unlock ’em.”

That was a fact. We couldn’t nail them, because we didn’t have any
nails, and anyhow, it wouldn’t have done much good, for a man who had
his mind set on it could have smashed through, anyhow.

“There ain’t but one way,” says Mark, “to keep the Japanese out of those
windows, and that’s to w-w-watch ’em. All the time we’ve got to keep
track of f-five Japanese. Somebody’s got to keep his eye on the windows,
somebody’s got to watch the s-stairs, and the rest of us have got to be
ready for an attack here in front.”

“Good!” says I. “Post your guards.”

“Ever read of cliff-dwellers?” says Mark.

“I’ve heard tell of ’em. But right now I’m more curious about Japanese.”

“Huh!” says he. “We m-m-might as well get as much pleasure out of this
mix-up as possible. You can get p-pleasure out of sittin’ on a tack if
you go at it right. We’ll pretend we’re cliff-dwellers in a stone castle
up on a shelf on a m-mountain. The only way to attack us is to scale the
cliff with ladders. A tribe of the enemy has come down on to us.”

“I’ve heard,” says Plunk, “that cliff-dwellers ate dogs.”

“Guess,” says Mark, with a grin, “we won’t pretend that far. Motu’s dog
don’t look like he’d cut up into good steaks.”

“That satisfies me,” says Binney. “Cliff-dwellers we are, and, if my
ears ’ain’t gone to dreamin’, those enemies are gettin’ ready to stir up
somethin’.”

“Quick!” says Mark. “You, Binney, get to the west cliff where the leetle
cave openin’s are. Plunk, you watch the m-main ladder that’s hauled up.
Motu and Tallow and I will f-f-fight off the main attack if it comes.”

It came, all right. There wasn’t any pretending about that. One Japanese
scooted out and cut the rope that held the drawbridge, and down she
dropped. Then two more put their heads down low so we couldn’t get a
good pelt at them and ran as fast as they could across to the hotel.

They were gone about three minutes when we saw them coming back with a
ladder—with two ladders. One was a long ladder, the other was short. We
made it as pleasant and sociable for them as possible, but they dashed
under cover in spite of all we could do.

“L-l-lances ready,” says Mark. Then he raised his voice and yelled to
Plunk and Binney. “Keep your eyes open, guards.”

I leaned over the railing and out came three Japanese with the ladders,
and what do you think they had on to protect them from shots from above?
Bushel baskets! Yes, sir, every one of them had a basket on his head.
They looked like some newfangled kind of mud-turtle.

“Look!” says I to Mark.

He looked and shook his head and grinned sort of admiring.

“I knew that Man Who Will Come was a s-s-smart one,” says he. “Couldn’t
have invented b-better armor. Slingshots ain’t any good now.”

“Might hit their fingers,” says I.

“Waste of time tryin’,” says he. “Lances are the thing. Don’t let ’em
p-plant their ladders against the cliff. As soon as a man gets near with
a l-ladder give it a shove and topple it over.” He stopped a minute.
“Don’t see anythin’ of The Man or the other Jap, do you?”

“No,” says I.

“Well,” says he, “we’ll have to trust to the guards.”

The men were raising their ladders. The shorter one got in reach first
and Mark gave it a shove that sent it and the man who had it over on to
the ground with a good sound flop. That didn’t stop the two with the big
ladder. They used different tactics. Off they got a ways and then
pointed the ladder at the railing like a battering-ram, and came on with
a run. We had as much chance of stopping it as a hippopotamus has of
climbing a cherry-tree.

Bang! went the ladder against the railing, and as soon as it struck the
men jumped on it to hold it down. We pushed and pried, but it only
wabbled. It was too heavy for us.

“S-sideways,” says Mark. “Shove sideways.”

That was a real idea. We both got on one side and pushed. The ladder
moved a foot. By now the first man was half-way up.

“Shove hard!” says Mark. “_Now!_”

All three of us put our weight against it and it started, slow at first,
but gradually getting faster, until it went with a swoop. The top man
jumped all sprawled out and rolled over a couple of times when he
struck.

“Whoop!” says I.

Mark grinned, and so did Motu.

“Good!” says Motu. “That will stop them for one moment. It is like the
sieges of ancient strongholds in stories of my grandfather.”

They got up their ladders and tried again, but now we had the trick of
it and put them over easy.

“I wish,” says Mark, “I knew what The Man is d-d-doin’.”

“Restin’,” says I.

“Not him,” says Mark. “He’s got a scheme. This attack in f-front wasn’t
expected to win. He’d know better. It’s to cover up somethin’ m-more
serious.”

“Well,” says I, “all we can do is wait and ’tend to matters as they
come.”

“I ain’t so sure,” says Mark. “You f-f-fellows stay here. I want to go
back by the side.”

He went. Motu and I watched the Japanese drag the ladders under the
porch and listened to them jabber. Motu understood what they were saying
and grinned at me friendly and sort of proud.

“They say, ‘Boys be great warriors some day.’ Also they are saying, ‘We
have been told Americans cannot fight, and do not want to fight. We have
been told Japan with a little army could win from America with big army;
but if the men fight like the boys, it is not so.’ That is good to hear,
Tallow. I wish all Japanese could hear it. I wish it because all good
Japanese—all men who think—have a great friendship for the United
States. We do not like talk of war. We like to think only of peace
forever. But some there are who have hot heads—just as you have hotheads
in America. They see insults where there are no insults. They blame all
America for what one part of America does. It hurts Japanese pride to be
treated as we are by California—yet California has reasons. Thinking men
know that. So I wish all hotheads might know how great America is and
what fighting-men she raises.” Motu stopped a moment and raised his head
in a dignified kind of way. “Not,” says he, “that Japan fears good
warriors and would make war only on the weak. Russia was not weak, but
those who talk war most go to war least. A little fear would make them
cautious. So I wish all could know the warrior spirit that sleeps in
America, that they might never awake it.”

“Me, too,” says I. “If all Japanese were like you, Motu, I guess there
wouldn’t be any row at all.”

Motu smiled. “Not all have the advantage to see America and England and
the world that I have. They live at home and their vision is narrow.
They cannot understand. But some day I shall teach them.” He caught
himself suddenly and looked at me; then he went on as if he would make
me think he had said what he didn’t exactly mean: “Some day I will do
all a common boy can do to make them know. I will tell many friends.”

“Sure,” says I, but I wasn’t fooled. Right there I was convinced that
Motu was pretty important and powerful at home in Japan. You could tell
it by the way he spoke when he wasn’t thinking.

All of a sudden Plunk let out a yell.

“Hey!” says he. “Git away from there! Git! I’ll lam you good!” he says.

Motu and I ran around the corner and saw Plunk poking his lance at
somebody through the stairway. Just then Mark Tidd came out of the door,
rolling a big barrel that he’d found. He frowned at us.

“Your p-p-place is in front,” says he. “Git back there quick.”

He was right about it. We had left our station unguarded.

“What’s the matter?” I yelled at Plunk.

“Man tryin’ to cut the rope that holds up the stairs,” says he, “and I’m
pokin’ away his knife. He’s got it tied to a pole.”

Motu and I hurried around in front and got there just in time, for two
Japanese were trying to sneak up a ladder, quiet, without hearing. From
then on we didn’t have time to bother about Plunk and his troubles.



                              CHAPTER XIX


Motu and I soon disposed of the two Japanese and their ladder. As soon
as they had picked themselves up we heard The Man Who Will Come calling
to them. Motu said he was telling them to quit monkeying around there
and come to help him.

“I will watch here,” says Motu. “You go to help Mark Tidd.”

I was willing enough because I wanted to see what was going on, so I ran
around the corner just in time to see Mark leaning as far over as the
size of him would allow and smearing something on the stairs where they
were hauled up.

“What you doin’?” I asked. “Feedin’ them?”

“Sure,” says he, without so much as the shadow of a smile. “They was
askin’ for f-f-food, so I’m rubbin’ it into ’em. It was in this barrel.”
He pointed to the big barrel I’d seen him rolling out.

I went over and looked. In the bottom of the barrel was about a pailful
of some messy-looking stuff—soft soap or something like that.

“What’s the idee?” I asked him.

“M-makin’ the stairs easy to walk up,” says he.

I didn’t quite understand, but it wasn’t very many hours before I
understood good and plenty—and it was one of the slickest sights Mark
Tidd ever arranged.

Mark went right on daubing the messy stuff on the stairs as thick as he
could get it, while Plunk kept poking away at the knife a Japanese was
trying to cut the rope with.

“I wish that rope was wire,” says I. “It wouldn’t be so easy to cut.”

Mark straightened up and looked at me. “Tallow,” says he, “that idee was
worth your board for the rest of the summer. There’s a coil of w-w-wire
clothes-line hangin’ up in there. Get it.”

I found it hanging on a nail and brought it along. By that time Mark was
done daubing, and he took the wire and rigged it alongside the rope to
the stairs that led up to the third floor.

“We’ll use the r-rope to haul up the stairs,” says he, “if it gets so we
have to h-haul ’em up. Then we’ll f-f-fasten ’em with the wire. Tallow,
I’m proud of you. You’re promoted. For this wire idee I dub thee knight.
Git down on your knees.”

“Don’t b’lieve cliff-dwellers had knights,” says I.

“We’re the kind that does,” says he. “Kneel.”

I grinned sort of foolish, I expect, and got down. He tapped me on the
shoulder with the stick he had been using and says:

“Rise, Sir Tallow Martin. I dub thee knight.” With that he put a smear
of the messy stuff on my cheek and chuckled. “I daub the knight, too,”
says he. “That’ll make it all the stronger.”

“It was plenty powerful enough without,” says I.

All of a sudden the stairs dropped with a bang. Plunk had missed the
knife with his lance and the Japanese had cut the rope.

“Ready to repel attack,” Mark shouted, and grabbed his lance.

Plunk had his and so did I. Mark and I stood plumb at the head of the
stairs, while Plunk stood over to the side to take the enemy on the
flank. No sooner did the stairs drop than three Japanese made a wild
jump on to them. One man was ahead and made a bound up three steps. The
others were right on his heels. Well, sir, what followed was too good to
be true. The top man no sooner landed on the step than both his feet
went _slap_ out from under him and he sprawled on his face. His heels
flew back and swatted the two behind, and _they_ went down, and all of
them rolled over and over to the floor in a tangle. I caught a glimpse
of their faces and you never saw anybody look so surprised and startled
and mad all at once.

“_Wumph!_” the first fellow says when he landed, and “_Wough!_” says the
other two fellows when his heels hit them in the stummicks. I guess it
knocked the wind clean out of them, for they all sat on the floor
gasping and hanging on to their waist-lines like they thought somebody
was going to try to steal them. They didn’t get right up. You could see
they weren’t ready to stand up, not any of them. They were perfectly
willing to rest a bit.

In a minute The Man came in sight and began jabbering at them. At first
they didn’t do anything but goggle at him and groan and pant, but he
tongue-lashed them till they got on to their feet pretty slow and
painful.

The Man pointed at the stairs and says something in a commanding voice.
The three started at us again, but there wasn’t any rush about it. They
had their plateful of rushing on those stairs. No, sir, they didn’t
hurry a bit. You’d have thought maybe they were climbing up to have a
tooth pulled, hanging on to the rail and stepping soft and easy. Even at
that the stairs were so slippery they could hardly hold their feet.

We stood at the top and laughed at them. That was about all we could do.
We laughed, but that didn’t mean we were easy in our minds—I should say
not. Those fellows looked _mad_. I felt as if somebody was waving his
hand up and down inside my stummick, and my legs were trembly, and I
wished I was back in Michigan with lots of room to run.

“How d’you feel?” says I to Mark.

“Lonesome,” says he, and grinned sickly-like.

That was the very word for it. There was company enough, too much of it
if you come to that, but I was never so lonesome before, and I don’t
expect ever to be so lonesome again.

The first man, hanging on to the rail with one hand, was near enough now
so Plunk could swipe at him with his lance. The lance, you remember, was
a long stick with a wad on the end bigger than a boxing-glove. It
wouldn’t hurt anybody much to get a wallop with it, but it would bother
them considerable. It bothered the Japanese, for Plunk drew back and
gave him a good one right alongside the ear.

The man grunted and threw up his arm. Plunk banged him again, and he
sort of wabbled.

“Poke him quick while he’s off his b-b-b-balance!” yelled Mark; and
Plunk did.

The Jap did a funny little dance on his toes, grabbed for the rail and
missed it, whirled around with his arms waggling, and sat down
_ker-sloosh_! Then he coasted right against the legs of the other two
and pushed their feet off the steps so they plumped down right on top of
him like he was a sled, and coasted all the way down on him. I’ll bet he
enjoyed it!

“T-t-toboggan slide,” Mark says. “Guess they don’t have ’em in Japan.
They act like they didn’t understand slidin’ very well.”

“I thought,” says I, “that they made a pretty good slide for beginners.”

“’Twan’t graceful,” says Plunk. “I like to see folks slide pretty and
neat. These fellers is clumsy as all-git-out.”

The three picked themselves up after they’d felt of their shins and
rubbed their ribs and grunted considerable. The Man, dapper as ever,
with his glass in his eye, stood scowling at them. He never looked up at
us once. For a while he didn’t say anything; then he spoke in Japanese
and they all went away.

“Whee!” says I. “Attack’s repulsed.”

“Huh!” Mark grunted. “It hasn’t b-b-begun yet. The Man’s got a scheme.
Just wait.”

We didn’t have to wait long, for in three minutes they were back, each
one of them carrying a pail—of sand.

“What’re they goin’ to do with that?” says Plunk. “Throw it in our
eyes?”

“How do you stop an engine on a slippery track?” Mark asked.

“Put sand in front of the drivers,” says Plunk.

“Well,” says he, “pertend these Japanese was engines and the stairs was
a t-t-track. What then?”

It was plain enough now. The Man had found a way to get ahead of Mark’s
greasy scheme. They began putting sand on the stairs thick. First they
covered the bottom step and then worked up a step at a time, fixing each
one so they had a firm footing. Of course they couldn’t get to the four
or five top steps, because we were there to see they didn’t, but they
did the best they could.

Then they stood out of reach and tossed up sand so it fell on the steps
that were still greasy. They kept it up till every step was covered, and
then they made another attack.

It was lucky the stairs were narrow so only one man could come at us at
a time, but that didn’t stop them. They came like they meant business.
The first man crouched and jumped. Mark poked him while he was in the
air and he stumbled and went down on his knees. But there he stuck.
There wasn’t any more coasting, on account of the sand. He got up again
and stood with his hands like a boxer, ready to grab the first lance
that was shoved at him. On he came.

Mark feinted for his face, and when he threw up his hands, changed his
aim of a sudden and lammed him in the stummick. At the same time Plunk
let him have one in the ear and I reached through and gave his ankle a
shove. It upset him again.

The others caught him and shoved him ahead. I guess they figured on
using him as a shield, but he didn’t appear to like that idea much, for
he wiggled and squirmed and yelled. We were sorry for him—of course we
were—but business was business and we gave it to him good. _Thud! thud!
thud! thud!_ went the padded ends of our lances against his ribs and his
head and wherever we could reach.

It wasn’t any use. The stairs were narrow and steep, and they couldn’t
get a firm footing in spite of their sand, and we forced them back, a
step at a time, until Mark and I were standing half-way down the stairs.
We didn’t go any farther, but there we stood and beat them back as fast
as they came on.

[Illustration: THERE WE STOOD AND BEAT THEM BACK AS FAST AS THEY CAME
ON]

Then what did The Man do but get an eighteen-foot two-by-four and put
his men on it. They came at us like a battering-ram, and you’d better
believe we had to scatter. Up the stairs they charged, but when their
ram was past the head of the flight we were ready for them again. The
farther they came the farther past us their ram went—and we could get in
range with our lances.

It was hot work and hard work, but we forced them back once more and
managed to grab their two-by-four when they dropped it. It was our
second trophy of the war. First The Man’s little cane, and now the
battering-ram. We treated ourselves to a cheer, though we didn’t have a
great supply of wind to cheer with.

Now came a lull in the attack. I guess the enemy had run out of
ambition, or maybe The Man was fussing around to get some new idea. He
had done pretty well so far with his ideas, and, taking the whole
campaign into consideration, we had a little the worst of it, for we had
lost the bridge and the island, and were besieged in the citadel. But
that didn’t mean we were licked. The hardest fights in a siege come when
the citadel itself has to be taken, and the Japanese were finding that
out.

We hadn’t used all our resources, either, for Binney and Motu were
keeping guard, and the dog was tied up to be sure he would be out of the
way. Mark sort of figured the dog might come in handy sometime, but he
didn’t want to use him if he didn’t have to, because the Japanese
wouldn’t care whether they hurt the dog or not, and they would be a
little mite careful what they did to us.

We weren’t afraid of what would happen to us, anyhow. The worst would be
a little rough handling. What we were worried about was their capturing
Motu.

The Japanese had disappeared from the foot of the stairway, and Mark
went to warn the guards to keep their eyes wide open. Then he came back
and we sat down to wait developments. Below somewhere we heard the noise
of hammering, and Mark says:

“I’ll bet here’s where we l-l-lose this stairway. If The Man’s thinkin’
of the same scheme I am he can d-drive us back.”

“What then?” says I, sort of startled.

“Then,” says he, “we make for the t-third floor. They can’t cut down the
stairs there and they can’t reach us with ladders. It’s our strongest
p-place.”

“Grub up there?”

“Every ounce of it,” says Mark.

“Why not sneak up there, then?” says I.

“Because,” says he, “we want to take up every m-minute of time we can.
Every hour we save is in our f-favor. Here they’ve been half a d-day
tryin’ to take this stairway. More’n that, I guess.” He took out his
watch and looked at it. Then he wrinkled up his face and felt of his
stomach. “Thought I felt sort of funny,” says he. “Know what t-time it
is?”

“No,” says I.

“Three o’clock,” says he.

You can believe now that we had been having a pretty busy and exciting
time. The best proof of it that I could give you was just this—that Mark
Tidd forgot it was dinnertime. He had gone three hours past mealtime and
never noticed it.

“I’m goin’ to eat,” says he, “Japs or no Japs.”

“Fetch down enough for the crowd,” says I.

He waddled up-stairs, and in ten minutes came back with two ham
sandwiches for each of us. We had a whole boiled ham, and enough bread
to run us. They were good, generous sandwiches with a slice of ham in
them that you could taste when you bit, and mustard. When Mark Tidd
fixed something to eat he fixed it so nobody in the world could
complain, and so he couldn’t complain himself. There was as much
difference between these sandwiches of his and the kind you buy as there
is between getting hit with a hammer and getting hit with a feather.
When the five of us got through there wasn’t a crum left that would pay
for a bird’s time picking it up. Mark didn’t forget the dog, either, but
gave him a bone.

“Wish I had a drink,” says I.

Mark looked at me and then at Plunk. “Water!” says he.

“Ain’t there none?” says Plunk.

“Not a drop,” says Mark. “It’s all downstairs.”

“Hum!” says I, sort of significant.

“Go on and hum,” says Mark. “It’s my fault, all right, but I guess it
ain’t s-s-serious. The lake’s right below us.”

“And when we get thirsty we can go to look at it, I suppose,” I says, as
sarcastic as I could get.

“If you’re thirsty,” says Mark, “s’pose you f-f-find some way to get
water. It’s near enough.”

“We can let down a bucket with a rope,” I says, for that idea just
popped into my head. I should have thought of it before.

“Go ahead,” says Mark.

I went to get a bucket, but not a bucket could I find. I hunted high and
low and crossways and sideways, but not a sign of a bucket was there.
Not a bucket nor a pail nor anything that I could see that would hold
water. I went back and told Mark so.

“Huh!” says he. “I could have told you. And if you’d f-f-found a bucket
there wouldn’t have been any rope.”

“How long can a man live without water?” says I, getting all-fired
thirsty all at once.

“A camel can live eight d-d-days,” says he, as sober as a judge.

“I ain’t a camel,” says I, getting pretty mad at the cool way he took
it.

“We’ll have to stand it as long as we can,” says Mark. “It was a bad
blunder. Worst I ever made, I guess. But,” says he, his little eyes sort
of glinting, “I’ll be so dry the wind’ll blow me away before I
s-s-surrender.”

“They say,” says I, still good and mad, “that the human body is
three-quarters water. If that’s so there’s enough water mixed up with
you to quench the thirst of General Grant’s armies.”

For once he didn’t say anything back, but he stored that up in his mind,
you’d better believe, with the idea of getting even with me when the
chance came. But that didn’t worry me. It was enough worry to think
about being shut up for days without anything to drink.

I sat down on the railing and looked out over the lake, just thinking of
things, general like. I must have got interested in what I was thinking
about, for the next thing I knew I heard a voice over past the hotel
yelling:

“Can’t you tell when I got the brake on, eh? Say! What kind of a
automo_beel_ be you, anyhow? I’ve throwed out the clutch and slammed on
the brake, but you don’t pay no more ’tention than as if I hadn’t done
nothin’ at all. Whoa, there!”

It was my friend that I’d met on the road and got to deliver the
message. What he was doing here I couldn’t for the life of me guess, but
I figured he’d come out of curiosity to find out what was going on. I
called Mark and the boys.

The old fellow managed to stop his “engine” and sat staring over at us.
I waved my hand and yelled at him—and then The Man and his followers
just _boiled_ across the bridge and went for the old fellow. He saw them
coming and began to jerk and slap his lines.

“Hey, you!” he yelled. “Hain’t I pressed the self-starter button, eh?
Then why don’t you start? Hain’t the lever in low? Git a stir on to
you!”

But the animal never stirred. The old fellow stood up and larruped him
with the lines, but he just sort of humped his back and laid down his
ears and took root. Then The Man and his folks got there. One of them
set out to grab the mule. The mule turned and looked him right in the
face, and then something happened. You never saw an engine explode, I’ll
bet you. Neither did I, but that’s the nearest I can imagine to what
that mule did. He just naturally up and exploded. First he opened his
mouth and let out a holler that was enough to raise the dead, and then
he lashed out with all four feet and his tail, and tried to bite with
his teeth. You can bet those Japanese backed off a little. The old
fellow didn’t seem to mind a bit. He just spread his legs so the mule
could kick free and waited. All at once the mule quit kicking and
started off straight ahead.

“The lever’s in high,” yelled the old fellow.

This time I guess the mule knew right where the lever was, for the way
he got out of there was a caution. If he wasn’t doing forty miles an
hour then I don’t want a cent. The Japanese tried to stop him, but he
nipped one on the arm and came pretty close to running right over the
top of another. Whee! but they scattered.

The old fellow turned around and sort of waved his hand at us. Then he
put his thumb to his nose and wiggled his fingers at the Japanese. That
was the last we saw of him, for the mule yanked him around a clump of
trees and out of sight.

I looked at Mark and grinned, and Mark looked at me.

“Well?” says he.

“Same here,” says I.

“It’ll mean quick trouble f-f-for us,” says he. “The Japs’ll be afraid
he’ll go after h-help.”

“Not him,” says I. “Bet he don’t know enough. Seems like he was sort of
crazy or somethin’.”

Mark shook his head. “You n-never can tell,” says he.



                               CHAPTER XX


The hammering down below kept on steadily for an hour or so. Then there
was silence for quite a while, I expect while The Man’s army was getting
rested and recovering its grit. It was beginning to grow dusk before we
saw a single Japanese.

Mark held a council of war. It wasn’t much of a council, if that word
means people talking together and offering one another advice. Mark did
most of the talking and all of the advising. It wasn’t because he
wouldn’t accept advice. No, sir. He wasn’t that sort of fellow at all.
He was always glad to listen and to change his own plan if somebody
offered a better one, but right now he was the only one that had any
plan. _Mostly_ he was. The rest of us fellows were pretty good at doing
things we were told, and maybe we were up to the average on brains, but
Mark was a little out of the ordinary there. Anyhow, he had a different
kind of brain. It was the kind that can’t help scheming and figuring. So
the council of war consisted mainly in his telling us what to do.

“We can’t hold this l-l-line of defenses,” says he. “It won’t be long
before we have to make a strategic retirement to the next floor. That’s
our last stronghold, and it’s the s-s-strongest. We can hold out there
till—”

“Till it rains, I hope,” says I. “Then we’ll get a drink.”

“Is that still on your mind, Tallow? Well, the first minute I have to
spare I’ll get you a drink.”

“Is that a promise?” says I.

“Yes,” says he.

That settled it. If Mark Tidd said he’d get water, then water would be
got. I was satisfied.

“How you goin’ to get it?” Plunk says.

“I don’t know yet,” says Mark. Now wasn’t that just like him! He knew
there must be _some_ way of getting water up there, and he was sure, if
there was a way, he could find it. I wish I was as confident of myself
as that. Maybe that’s why Mark is more thought of by folks than we
are—because he never gives up, and because he knows if anybody can do a
thing he can do it, too.

“We’ll have to r-r-retreat,” says he. “Maybe not at the next attack, but
soon. If The Man uses the scheme I’m thinkin’ of we’ll retreat right
sudden.”

“Will we have time,” says I, “to run up the stairs and pull them up
after us?”

“I’ve f-f-fixed it so we will,” says he. You see, he’d thought it all
out and was ready for anything. Of course he did make mistakes once in a
while, like forgetting the water, but that was seldom. As Uncle Ike Bond
said when he bought a citron because his bad eyesight made him think it
was a muskmelon, “The best of us’ll make mistakes.”

“Now,” says Mark, “we want to know when to r-r-retreat. The two guards
want to know b-because they’ve got farther to run. We’ll have to have a
signal. The minute they hear it, or you hear it, forget everything but
how to get to the t-t-top of those stairs the quickest way there is. The
signal will be two screeches like this.” He showed us, and they were
screeches for certain. A catamount would have been so proud of them he’d
have jumped out of his skin. I guess a catamount that could yowl like
that would be a sort of opera-singer among his folks, and they’d pay to
hear him perform.

“Will that do?” says Mark.

“Do?” says I. “Yell like that and we won’t have to retreat. It’ll scare
the Japs stiff so they’ll fall down-stairs and bu’st their necks.”

“All right,” says he. “You, Tallow, go and tell Motu and Binney.”

I went off to tell them. Motu was leaning on the railing, looking over,
when I got there.

“How’s business?” says I.

He looked at me sort of blank. Then he smiled so all his fine white
teeth showed between his lips. “Ha! Tallow, it is an American question.
I understand. To be sure. How is business? There has not been business.
I have not had a single—what do you say?—a single customer.” He stopped
and looked sort of disappointed. “You boys have had all the fighting,”
he says. “You fight for Motu, yet Motu has no part in it.”

“Don’t let that worry you,” says I. “Guardin’ is as important as
fightin’, and harder to do, I expect. Besides,” says I, “if you was
tryin’ to keep pirates from capturin’ a treasure you wouldn’t bring it
right up to the fightin’-line where they could grab it and run. No, sir,
you’d keep it back where it would be safe. Well, Motu, you’re our
treasure after a manner of speaking. We’re tryin’ to keep the Japanese
from takin’ you, so we want you back where they can’t haul you off in
the mix-up. That’s strategy.”

“Strategy maybe,” says he, “but not honorable strategy for the treasure.
Where others fight for you you should fight also for yourself, and not
in the rear rank, but in front. Let no man be struck a blow in your
defense that you yourself can take. So my father taught me.”

I sort of figured it out that Motu had the right sort of a father. My
grandfather fought in our war, and that’s exactly the sort of thing he
used to tell me. He was great on honor, granddad was. I told Motu about
him because I didn’t want him to think American boys weren’t taught
about honor as much as Japanese boys were.

“You’ll get enough fightin’ before we’re through with this,” says I, “so
don’t worry about takin’ a little rest.”

Then I went on and told Binney, who hadn’t seen any of the enemy,
either. He was worried, though, about a spruce-tree that grew pretty
close to a window. He’d been thinking that maybe a man could climb it
and get out on a limb that almost touched the wall, and from there jump
smack through a window. It looked possible to me.

By this time it was getting quite dark and I hurried back to the stairs
where Plunk and Mark were sitting. Mark had another big sandwich for
each of us, so I carried supplies to Motu and Binney. Both of them asked
for water, so I told them we were just out of it, but would have a fresh
supply soon. Binney kicked a little about it, but Motu just smiled and
said, “If we have to have water your Mark Tidd will get it.”

I went back to my place again. Mark had a couple of blankets spread on
the floor. “Two men s-s-sleep,” says he. “You and Plunk take t-t-turns
with Binney and Motu.”

“How about you?” says I.

“No sleep for me to-night,” he said, with that look around his jaw that
means there’s no use arguing. “I’m the general of this army and my
b-b-business is to be on the job.”

“That’ll give you a little time to think about gettin’ water, then,”
says I, for I was still considerable r’iled up about that.

Mark grinned like the cat that ate the canary-bird. He always grins like
that when he’s got the best of you, so I knew he had been figuring about
water and had found a way to get it.

“There’s a f-f-five-pound pancake-flour bag up with the provisions,”
says he. “Fetch it down.”

I ran up and got it, and then sat down to see what was going to happen.
Mark took the bag and measured it careful. Then he took some of the
clothes-line wire—there was about six feet of it left—and twisted and
turned and braided it into a hoop just a mite smaller than the top of
the bag. When that was done he put it inside the bag about two inches
down and folded the thick, tough paper over it. Then, with string out of
his pocket, he wound it over and over, punching holes every little ways
to pass the string through. He was mighty careful and particular about
it. When it was all done he had a bucket that would hold a good gallon
of water. Another short piece of wire made the handle.

“There,” says he, “that’ll hold water.”

“Yes,” says I, “but the water’s quite a step down. How you goin’ to
reach it?”

“The enemy f-f-furnished us somethin’ to reach it with,” says he,
pointing to the two-by-four we had captured. “That’ll reach, I
calc’late.”

Sure enough, it would. All we had to do was drive a nail in the end and
make a hook of it to hold the pail. I was so thirsty I could hardly
wait, so I grabbed the contraption as soon as Mark finished it and
rushed off to where I could reach water. It worked a little clumsy, but
it did the business. I didn’t have much trouble filling the pail.

You’d better believe water never tasted so good before. Mark was
perfectly willing to drink, and Plunk got away with about a quart. Motu
didn’t act very excited about it, though he drank hearty enough.

“I told you,” says he, “that your Mark Tidd could do it.”

Binney was last to get a drink. That half-emptied the pail.

“Pour the rest in another paper bag,” says Mark, “and tie it with a
string. Hang it up-stairs. M-m-most of it will stay long enough. Then
f-fill your bucket again and hang that up-stairs. We won’t run any more
risks.”

“Listen,” says Plunk.

It was now pretty dark. The moon showed just a little, but there were
clouds which kept covering it up, and when they did you couldn’t see a
dozen feet away. But you could hear. We listened like Plunk told us to,
and heard several men scurrying around down below. Then the moon popped
out the clearest it had been and we saw!

“My scheme,” says Mark, under his breath. “I knew he’d f-f-figger it
out.”

It was a scheme, all right. The Man had made a regular lean-to of
planks. It was just as wide as the stairs and high enough to cover a
man. Other planks about three feet long made a roof to it so we couldn’t
get at the attackers from above. One man was right behind it, and all
four of the others were close to him, hanging on to a two-by-four that
pushed it. It was a sort of battering-ram except that you didn’t batter
with it—you just pushed it along in front of you and shoved anybody out
of the way. There wasn’t a way in the world for us to stop them.

“Better screech them screeches,” says I to Mark.

“Just a minute,” says he. “Help me with that b-b-barrel.”

Mark had the barrel half-full of heavy stuff. The barrel itself was one
of those big oil barrels, and weighed about a ton. We rolled it to the
top of the stairs.

“Wait till I give the w-w-word,” says he. “When I let out the signal,
give her a shove.”

We waited till the portable fort was a quarter of the way up, then Mark
opened his mouth and gave the two screeches. They were better than the
sample he had given us before. At that we both pushed and down rushed
and bumped and clattered the barrel. It got under way and began to jump.
The last five steps before it reached the movable fort never were
touched at all. The barrel just seemed to come to life and leap at the
enemy like it was trained. Maybe it was. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark
had found some way to train it.

Anyhow, it jumped at those Japs and hit their shelter just above the
center. Maybe it didn’t hit it. Wow! That barrel and the things in it
must have weighed a couple of hundred pounds and it was going fast.

“Scoot!” says Mark to Plunk and me.

I stopped just long enough to see the shelter smash backward and break
away from the two-by-four that pushed it. The barrel went right over it,
and you should have seen those Japanese hop out of the way. Then I
headed up like I’d been sent for in a hurry. Plunk beat me, Binney was
right at my heels, next came Motu, and Mark brought up the rear.

“Quick!” says he. “Haul up the r-r-rope.”

We grabbed her and pulled. It wasn’t a second too soon for The Man
himself came bounding up the stairs below and made a jump for the end of
the stairs we were pulling up. He caught it, too, and hung there.

“Motu,” says Mark, “ask him to g-g-get off.”

Motu grinned and grabbed his lance. You could see he had a job he liked.
He went to where he could reach The Man, whose hands were now on a level
with our floor, and reached under. I saw him draw back his lance for a
jab, and the jab went home. Right into The Man’s stummick it went.

“Wourgh!” says The Man, or something that sounded like it, and dropped
like a stone. He sat where he fell, or rather rolled over on his side
with both arms folded across his beltline, and there he stayed till a
couple of his men came and picked him up. He didn’t act very chipper for
ten minutes.

“Here we are,” says Mark, fastening the wire that held up the stairs.
“They can’t cut this, and they can’t g-g-get to us with l-ladders. If
they come they’ve got to come through the floor, in an airship, or up
these s-stairs.”

“It is a strong place to defend,” says Motu. “But hunger and thirst are
stronger. For a time we can hold out. Maybe days, maybe a week, but in
the end we must give up. Is it not so, Mark Tidd?”

“I’ve got an idee,” says Mark, “that any givin’ up that’s d-d-done won’t
be done by us.”



                              CHAPTER XXI


The Japanese came stamping and jabbering around under us, but that
didn’t do any particular good that I could see, and after a while they
quieted down. I guess they were pretty tired after their day’s work, and
wanted a rest. Anyhow, they didn’t bother us again that night.

The first thing Mark had us do was make stronger the fastening of the
stairs. It was held by a double wire and a rope. We used up all the wire
we had left putting on more fastenings, and when we got through we felt
pretty safe for a while. It would take anybody more than a minute to get
those stairs down, we were certain.

Now we were so high up they didn’t have any ladders that could reach us,
and we didn’t need to bother watching anything but the stairs, so four
of us went to sleep while one watched. Plunk was the unlucky one. He
drew the shortest stick. He was to watch from nine till twelve, Binney
from twelve to three, and Motu the rest of the night. When that was
arranged I rolled up in my blanket on the floor and went to sleep.

Maybe you’ll say that wasn’t a comfortable bed, but it suited me. I was
perfectly satisfied. The way I felt I guess I’d have been glad to lie
down on a pile of cobblestones with a boulder for a pillow. I went to
sleep so quick I hardly remember lying down, and I never wiggled till
morning. From nine till six I slept and would have been willing to go on
for a couple of hours more, but Mark Tidd shook me and yelled in my ear
that breakfast was ready, such as it was.

While we were eating I got to thinking about things and says to Mark,
“If they find any way to get these stairs down we’re goners, because
they can use their movable fort and come prancing right up to us.”

“I’ve b-been calc’latin’ about that fort,” says Mark, “and I guess I
wasn’t very smart not to see a way to stop it before. They won’t get us
with that thingumbob,” he says.

“How’ll you stop ’em?” says I.

“With that s-scantling we captured. It’s come in handy, ’ain’t it? Got
water with it. Now we’ll stop the fort with it.”

“How?”

“Easy. When they s-start up—if they ever do—we’ll just jam one end of
our two-by-four against their fort and the other end of it against a
step. They’ll have to shove the whole citadel over into the l-l-lake to
move. It’ll be just like p-pushin’ against a stone wall.”

“Then what?” says I.

“Then,” says he, “they’ll have to come out and fight. We’ve got better
than an even chance there.”

“Where’s the dog?” says I, thinking of him all of a sudden.

Mark shrugged his shoulders. “D-d-down-stairs,” says he. “I left him on
p-purpose. If we had him we might use him, and it sort of goes against
the grain to be f-fightin’ men with a dog.”

“I’d fight ’em with a crocodile if I had one,” says I, and let it go at
that.

“They ought to be projectin’ around pretty soon,” says Binney. “If they
leave us alone much longer we’ll get all out of the habit of squabblin’
with ’em.”

“Don’t worry,” says Mark. “We won’t have t-t-time to form any habits. We
ain’t apt to have time to _spell_ habit unless we do it two letters at a
time.”

“Some one’s down there now,” says Plunk.

“The Man’s b-been lookin’ over our defenses quite a spell,” says Mark.
“I’ve noticed him p-p-prowlin’ around.”

“Then,” says Motu, “we may expect a stirring up of something directly.”

Of course, as soon as The Man saw the way we had the stairs fastened up
with stout wire he’d know there wasn’t any use trying to cut it with a
knife like he did the rope on the stairs below. Likewise, unless he was
a better schemer than Mark Tidd he wouldn’t be able to figure out any
other place to attack us than right up those stairs. So if he got us
there was where he would have to come, and he would have to discover
some plan to get down our stairs to climb up.

It might have been easy if he was where he could get tools, but it isn’t
customary to leave many valuable tools laying around an abandoned hotel,
and he didn’t have very much to work with. I guess he was a bit dubious
himself, for he came and stood where we could see him and called up to
us:

“Ho! up the stairs,” says he. “I wish to be speaking and talking with
you, eh?”

“Go ahead,” says Mark.

“You are tangled up like trap with bunny rabbit in it,” says The Man.
“Nobody can go away—not at all by any means. Oh no! You are very fast
and tight. Is it not without loud arguments so?”

“We’re p-p-perfectly comfortable,” says Mark. “You haven’t seen us
t-tryin’ to go away, have you?”

“You will surrender up voluntary, eh? There has been fight and bickering
plenty for everybody. For boys you have fight like bantam rooster. Oh
yes, like everything. Now you are finished up, I believe. Yes?”

“Now we are t-through, you b’lieve? No,” says Mark.

“The leetle Japanese boy—the bad, naughty leetle Japanese boy who
runnings away from his father—you will now give him to me? In that case
of the event nothing shall happen that is not nice. No! no! no! And
besides additionally there shall be Christmas gift and handy present for
you. Nice, beautiful presents that boys shall like to be owners of.”

“We can wait for Christmas,” says Mark. “We ain’t in any hurry for
p-p-presents.”

“Ah, but butter and bread and vittle, eh? There are stomachs that are
lonesome for feed. To be certainly sure. There is thirstiness. It is bad
and not a pleasant happening to be thirsty. Suppose I am staying here
three days, maybe a week? How is that? You will be starving and
thirsting. What then? Eh?”

“Mister,” says Mark, “when you’re hungry just s-s-send word. We’ll be
g-glad to lend you some grub. We’ve got p-plenty to last till you’re
far, far away.”

“You are a pig-head like a mule. You do not listen to commonest sense.
No. Must I come to take away the bad leetle Japanese boy?”

“You must if you get him. But so far, lookin’ at it from the p-p-point
of view of a man that’s not int’rested, you ’ain’t had much l-l-luck so
far.”

“I will buy and paying very generous for the leetle boy. How much?”

“We haven’t any little boys for sale, mister. And now that’ll be about
all. This t-truce is over. If you ain’t gone from there by the time I
count ten we’ll open f-fire. Git!”

The Man stared up a moment through his one eye-glass and grinned and
shrugged his shoulders, but before Mark had counted ten he was out of
range.

After that we saw a couple of the enemy go over to the hotel. I expect
they were rummaging around for something to use to cut our wire. They
must have searched good, for we didn’t see them come back for two hours,
and one of them had an ax in his hand.

“Much good that’ll do ’em,” says I. “They can’t reach with an ax.”

“Shucks!” says Mark. “They can p-p-put a longer handle on it, can’t
they?”

Which is just what they did. It took quite a while to cut it and get it
ready, so that it was after eleven o’clock when they started operations.
Then a man came out with the ax on a long handle and commenced chopping
at the wire. There was only a crack a couple of inches wide that we
could shoot through, and I guess we didn’t bother him much. Anyhow, he
stayed there and swung his ax on our wires. They were good and tough,
but at last he had one cut through. That was the first part of the end
of things right there. In half an hour the last wire parted and down
went the stairs. The way was open—open except for us fellows with our
lances and slingshots at the top.

The Man didn’t take any chances, though. The first thing he brought up
his movable fort, and, sheltered behind it, they began the attack.

“The two-by-four,” says Mark. “Be ready.”

Four of us grabbed it up and stood holding it till Mark said the word.

“_Now!_” says he, and we aimed the scantling right at the middle of the
fort and whanged it with all our might. I’ll bet it jarred them good and
plenty. Anyhow, they stopped and Mark ran down a couple of steps to pick
up the scantling and fix it with one end against their shelter and the
other end against a step. They were stopped. They heaved and pushed and
strained, but it wasn’t any good. They couldn’t reach over the top of
their fort because they’d built a roof there for their own protection,
and there they were. They could push all they wanted to. The more they
pushed the more tired they’d get and the more fun we’d have.

At last they tried lifting their contraption from the bottom and
grabbing our brace, but that wasn’t any good. We held it just out of
reach and peppered every arm that stuck out. Fifteen minutes of that and
they saw they were outgeneraled, so they retreated, shelter and all.
They had gained a point—the stairs were down; but we had gained a bigger
point—we had beaten them off even when they came at us with their patent
engine of war. We were pretty tickled, I can tell you.

But The Man wasn’t beaten. In twenty minutes he was back again with his
fort to make another try. The fort looked just like it looked before,
but we soon found out it was different—a whole heap different. We jabbed
it with the scantling again, but this time what do you calculate
happened! Why, they just dropped off a six-inch board about the middle,
backed away an inch or so, grabbed the end of our scantling, and pulled
the end through the hole where the board had been. Then they came right
on up. It looked like some new kind of spider climbing his thread, for
as they came on the scantling went right inside and disappeared like the
fort swallowed it.

Of course we tried to haul the scantling back, but they held on to it.
In spite of all our wrenching and jerking and waggling they kept their
end and climbed right on slow and sure.

“We’re done,” says I to Mark.

“Not yet,” says he. “Motu, you keep behind.”

“No,” says Motu. “I will fight side by side with you.”

Then Mark spoke short and sharp. “You’ll obey orders,” says he. “If
you’re plannin’ on b-bein’ a warrior you know what orders are. Keep
behind.”

Motu looked a bit ashamed and awful disappointed, but he did what Mark
told him. It must have been hard for him just then, but it was the best
plan.

“You’ll get all the f-f-fightin’ you need pretty quick,” says Mark; and
Motu smiled back at him.

“When we can’t h-hold ’em back any longer,” says Mark, “jump through
this door and slam it shut. It’ll gain a l-little time.”

“What’s the use gainin’ time?” says Binney. “It won’t make much
difference if we’re beat now or in half an hour.”

“A heap of t-t-things can happen in half an hour,” says Mark. “We don’t
give up till we can’t hang on one more second.”

They were almost on to us now. The fort was at the top step. Plunk
jumped to the far side and began jabbing like all-git-out with his
lance.

“Good b-boy,” says Mark; and then those Japanese just boiled out from
behind their fort and came at us. We kept Motu behind and fought the
best we could. If it hadn’t been for our lances we wouldn’t have lasted
long, but we kept together in a knot so they couldn’t get behind us, and
everlastingly poked them with the padded ends of our weapons.

Finally a man dropped sudden to his knees and dived under. He grabbed
Plunk and they went to the floor together and rolled over and over,
Plunk trying to get away, the man trying to hold him.

“Through the door, quick!” Mark yelled. He knew Plunk wouldn’t suffer
much damage, but we couldn’t afford to lose another man by the same
tactics, and we couldn’t rescue Plunk. So we jumped backward through the
door and just had time to slam it in their faces. We didn’t get it to
stay shut, though, so we could lock it. For the next five minutes it was
a question of strength. They pushed in and we pushed out. But there were
five of them to four of us and we were boys. Little by little they
forced us back until one of them squeezed through.

We had to give back then. The hall was so narrow only two of us could
fight abreast, and the luck fell to Mark and Binney. Motu and I got as
close behind as we could and used our lances whenever we got a chance.
It was pretty hot work, I can tell you. Then Binney turned his ankle and
fell, and before he could scramble up the enemy had him.

Now there were just three of us, and they forced us back step by step.
The hall was long and narrow. There was no chance to take us on the
flank, so they had to come straight on, but they seemed willing enough.
Now it was just a matter of time. Pretty soon they would push us back to
the end of the hall and close in on us, and we would be done for. After
that Motu would be theirs and we would have stood the siege in vain.

Don’t think the Japanese were having a pleasant time, for they weren’t.
A boxing-glove can’t really hurt you, but it can muss you up a lot, and
a good stiff punch will make you see stars. I’ll bet there wasn’t a man
in the lot of them that hadn’t seen a whole Fourth of July of fireworks.
But they meant business. Nothing could stop them, and on they fought.

Then, before I realized how far we had gone, I backed slam into Motu,
who was jammed against the wall. It was our last stand, and we made it a
good one. It wasn’t long before they had us wedged so tight we couldn’t
wiggle, and then hands grabbed me. It was all over. Of course I thrashed
around the best I could, and I expect the others were doing the same,
but it wasn’t long before they had me good and fast. It wasn’t any use
to struggle, so I laid quiet, feeling pretty tired and sore and sorry.
And then—and then, would you believe me; but I heard a sound that sent
the life and courage back into me with a jump.

“Listen, Mark!” I yelled.

“I heard it, Tallow,” says he.

The Japanese heard it, too, for they looked pretty startled and stared
at each other. Then we heard the sound again. It was the toot of an
automobile horn. The kind of horn you hear on great big
sixty-horse-power cars.

“Whoop!” I yelled. “It ain’t over yet!”

The Japanese were listening, and for a minute my man didn’t hang on to
me as tight as he ought to. I gave a sudden wrench and rolled out from
under him. Before he could lay hands on me again I was up and running
down that hall faster than the man who won the hundred-yard dash in the
Olympic games.

I plunged out of the door and threw myself down-stairs. The Japanese was
right at my heels, but at the ground floor he stopped, for just across
the bridge was a whopping-big car with seven or eight men in it, some
white, some Japanese, and just getting out was a little Japanese
gentleman with a tall silk hat and a frock-coat.

“Hey!” I yelled. “You’re just in time! Quick!”

In a minute the whole of them were out of the car and hurrying toward
me.



                              CHAPTER XXII


The little Japanese gentleman kept ahead in spite of his silk hat and
frock-coat. When he got to me he grabbed me by the arm and shook me.

“Where is he?” he says, his voice shaking with worry and excitement.
“Has harm come to him?”

“No,” says I, “but it was comin’ rapid when I saw him last. Bring on
your army.”

I turned and ran toward the citadel, with the whole pack of them at my
heels. Just as we got to the bridge The Man Who Will Come, with a couple
of his men at his back, came tearing down-stairs, but as soon as they
saw the reinforcements they stopped and hesitated and then began to
climb back again.

The little Japanese gentleman shouted something in an angry voice and
put on more steam, so that he passed me and got to the stairs first. We
all ran up in a crowd. For a minute The Man stood at the top as though
he’d make a fight for it, but panic got him, I guess, and he turned like
he’d lost his head, and tried to scoot three ways at once.

We pounded right up and two of our Japanese grabbed him by the arms. He
didn’t even struggle. Three of his followers huddled back in a corner of
the gallery, glowering and sullen, but frightened, and the
reinforcements attended to them.

“Where is he?” the little Japanese gentleman demanded, and I pointed
through the door just as Mark and Motu shoved the fourth of The Man’s
men out of the way and stepped into sight. Then a surprising thing
happened.

The dignified little Japanese gentleman, silk hat and frock-coat and
all, went right down on his knees and bowed so his face was almost
rubbing against the boards, and in a strangled voice said something in
their own language to Motu, who stopped with the greatest look of
surprise at sight of him. Then Motu stood still and drew himself up to
his full height, and smiled. It’s hard to say just how he looked, but I
guess stately is the only word for it. He looked like a boy who was used
to having folks go down on their knees and rub their noses in the
splinters for him.

He said something to the little Japanese gentleman, who got up on his
feet, his face working and his eyes blinking as if he was so happy he
was about to cry.

“It is well you have come,” Motu says to him in English. “The ears of my
serene uncle shall hear how you arrived—and there shall be fresh honors
and distinctions for one who already stands among the foremost.”

“You are safe? You are untouched by the hands of these pigs? If one has
so much as defiled your sacred person with the touch of a finger—”

“Good friend,” says Motu, with a gentle smile, “we are in America.”

“True.” The little gentleman glared back at The Man and his army. “Here
they are safe. But let them once return to their home—!”

“That shall be their punishment,” says Motu. “Never again in life shall
they set foot on the shores of our land; never shall their unworthy eyes
gaze on its beauties, never again behold the majesty of sacred Fuji
Yama. In foreign lands, far from the graves of their ancestors, shall
they pass away, and in their native villages their names shall be spoken
with bitter words and reviling. That is my will in the matter.” While
Motu spoke his face had been stern, but not cruel or vindictive. He had
spoken like a great and just judge passing sentence on the guilty.

Now he turned to us—the four of us, for Plunk and Binney were with us
again, rumpled and battered a bit, with their clothes ready to go into
the rag-bag.

“My friends,” says he, “let me present to you Count Takisuji, minister
from the Imperial Court of Japan to the United States.”

Well, sir, you could have bought me for a cent. Here was a boy smaller
than me, and a foreign minister went down on his knees and risked
getting a sliver in his nose at sight of him. I felt all fluffy inside.
None of us had ever seen a great man before—a man great enough to be the
representative of an empire at the capital of our country—and now that
we saw him we discovered we’d been hobnobbing with and bossing and
fooling around with a fellow that such a man bowed and scraped to. It
was sure amazing.

Motu went on speaking: “These four, Count,” says he, “are the best and
bravest friends I have ever known. They came upon me in trouble—a
foreigner, poor, wearing the clothes I now wear. But they asked no
questions, sought no reward, befriended me out of the largeness of their
hearts for the honor of their fatherland. Motu I was to them, and
nothing more—a poor Japanese boy who needed friends. They took me in,
fed me, gave me lodging. Then when he came”—here Motu nodded toward The
Man Who Will Come—“they fought for me—fought for me like warriors of
ancient days when men were greater and wiser and stronger than they are
to-day.” Then he set to and told them the whole story from beginning to
end. He didn’t omit a thing. He told about Mark Tidd’s strategy and
about my swimming and about the bravery and faithfulness of Binney and
Plunk, and everything. Then he introduced each of us by name.

“Here,” says he, “is Mark Tidd, our general. But for the wisdom and
cunning of his brain your coming would have been useless.”

“There wouldn’t have been any comin’,” says I, forgetting myself and
interrupting.

The count frowned, but Motu smiled and asked why.

Then I told him about the letter Mark wrote to the Japanese minister,
and how he had figured out that Motu was somebody important.

The minister nodded. “It was the letter brought me,” says he.

“I might have known,” says Motu. “Who but Mark Tidd could have brought
you? But how did he send the letter, Tallow?”

Now that was embarrassing. I didn’t want to do any bragging about
myself, and I muttered under my breath, and got red and felt like I was
standing close to a furnace. Out of the tail of my eye I saw Mark Tidd
grin. He knew how I was feeling, all right.

“It was like this, Motu,” says he; and again I saw the count frown, but
Motu shook his head at him. “Tallow s-s-sneaked off the other night and
swam the l-lake with the letter, and got a man to mail it. He was just
swimmin’ back again when the enemy made a l-landin’ on our island.”

Motu bowed to me as natural and graceful as could be, and I tried to bow
back, but I was pretty clumsy about it. We don’t have much practice in
that sort of politeness here, which, maybe, isn’t any credit to us.

“It was a fine deed, a brave deed, Tallow. The story of that swim, the
story of your dive from the balcony, shall not die.”

He went on introducing us, and the minister shook hands with each of us.

“They are of the Samurai,” says Motu, and the count raised his eyebrows
with surprise. I couldn’t see why then, but later I found out. “Each of
them, Count, is entitled to wear the short sword and to see the face of
majesty.”

“Maybe,” says the count, “it would be well to tell these young men for
whom they have been fighting. In these days when your secret was not
known they have grown familiar. It did no harm, but now—it is not seemly
for them, or for you.”

Motu smiled again and patted Mark on the shoulder. “Always it shall be
as it is now. To these four I shall be Motu, their true friend and
companion in dangers. They shall speak to me by no title, nor shall they
bow to me or treat me otherwise than as one of themselves—an American
boy. So shall I be proud to be known and accepted. But you may tell
them, Count, who I am.”

The count bowed low. “His highness is kind beyond the power of words to
express. You have been honored as few have been honored, yet I, Count
Takisuji, say it is deserved. Him whom you have served is his Highness,
Prince Motu, nephew to his Ineffable Majesty, Emperor of Japan.”

“Whee!” says I, half under my breath, “but we caught a big fish.”

Motu laughed. “But remember,” says he, “to you I am still Motu—always I
shall be but Motu, your true friend, forever at your service.”

Mark Tidd was squinting his little eyes and wrinkling his stub of a
nose.

“I d-don’t want to act like I was curious,” says he, “but what in
t-t-tunket is a royal p-prince doin’ alone in the mountains here? From
what I’ve read of princes it ain’t exactly a habit with them to be ten
t-thousand miles from home alone, in borrowed pants.”

“You shall know, Mark Tidd, for it is your right. The story reflects
small credit on a part of my countrymen. You know, Mark, that of late
there has been talk of war between your land and mine. It has made the
heart of my uncle heavy with sorrow, for he knows much of your United
States and his friendship is truly yours. But misunderstandings have
arisen. Our people have been inflamed against you by men who are no
better than traitors. Your people have been made to feel bitter against
us. Even those in power at Washington and in Tokio have been led astray.
But his Majesty, my uncle, was not led astray, and he knew your
President was wise and just. So, saying nothing to any, he sent me, his
relative, as a special and personal envoy to your President with words
and assurances of peace. A message he gave to my keeping which would
assure your President that a lasting peace depended on you alone.” He
stopped and thought a moment, then went on: “But my mission was
discovered by traitors who desire war because it will be of profit to
them. They want to see battle-ships built and cannon manufactured—and
men slain. Well they knew the state of the public mind, how a spark
might cause an explosion that even the Emperor could not withstand. With
me they planned to make that spark.

“In my land,” says Motu, “the people are kind to me; they have given me
their affection. It is good. So these traitors said to themselves, if
harm comes to Prince Motu in the United States there will be war. The
people will lay the blame on the United States, and peace will be
destroyed. So they made their plot.

“I came with but two attendants. None knew my name. As a simple Japanese
boy I traveled. I came across your country for days; then, one night as
I stood on a little station platform while the train stood still, The
Man with his followers seized me quietly and carried me away. What
happened thereafter I do not know, except what has happened to me. They
brought me to these places and here I escaped a week before you came. I
traveled miles on foot and found refuge in this old hotel. Then you
came. That is the story. So, you see, you have served not only Motu,
your friend, but your land and my land.”

The count nodded gravely. “It has been kept secret in Japan—your
disappearance—but I have been informed, and secretly I have made search
for you. Your followers came to me, but could give no aid. Not until the
letter of Mark Tidd came did I have hope; then with all speed I came
here. As the representative of my country, young men, I wish to thank
you for the service you have rendered her.”

“We didn’t do it on purpose,” says Mark. “It didn’t m-make any
difference whether Motu was a prince or a day laborer, he was in a bad
fix, and it looked like it was our d-d-duty to stick by him. He wouldn’t
have thought much of the United States if we hadn’t—now, would he? We
just did by him like we’d like to have Japanese boys do by us if we got
in a scrape over there.”

“It is a sentiment reflecting credit on the teaching of your fathers and
on the ideals of your country,” says the count.

There was quite a bit more palavering, which ended up by Motu asking us
to come on with him to the count’s summer home and stay there. He said
he’d have to scoot down to Washington, but would be back in a day or
two. We talked it over, and Motu persuaded us.

“We’ve got to see Mr. Ames, who owns the h-h-hotel,” says Mark. “It’s
been damaged some. We’ve got to take care of that.”

“That shall be my care,” says the count. “He shall be amply paid for all
harm.”

Motu was looking at The Man and his followers. Of a sudden he took a
step toward them:

“Punishment of the body you escape because of the nature of this matter,
but punishment of the soul you shall not escape. One and all you are
traitors to your land, and you”—he pointed scornfully at The Man—“are
the most despicable because if you would you could be of value to your
emperor. You have cast aside your honor and your manhood. Your names
shall be spoken with loathing. My sentence you have heard—never again
shall you see or set foot on the soil of your native land. Now go.”

Not one of them opened his mouth, but every one scurried off as fast as
he could travel. Probably they were afraid Motu might change his mind
and boil them in oil, or do whatever disagreeable thing is customary in
such cases over in Japan.

They didn’t take the road, but started to break and run into the woods.
But they didn’t. Just then something more unexpected than a Japanese
minister happened. Those woods all of a sudden came to life. The bushes
just fairly seethed and out came charging about twenty of the biggest
farmers—good old American farmers—I ever saw. And every one of them had
his sleeves rolled up for business. Behind them, on foot this time, came
the old fellow with the mule. Mark was right. That old fellow had gone
off and given warning.

What Motu said to The Man about escaping punishment of the body was
considerable of a mistake. I should say it was. Those big farmers just
came down on The Man and his followers like a roof was falling on them.
Why, the Japanese didn’t have a chance even to start to fight back. In
about two seconds every last one of them was grabbed and held fast by a
couple of men in overalls. The farmers led their prisoners over toward
us.

“Howdy!” said the man that was ahead. “Heard as how there was some
furriners botherin’ boys over here, so we come to see.”

“Much obliged,” says Mark. And he introduced the farmers to Motu and the
count, and you can guess those farmers were pretty surprised. They don’t
bump into a minister and a real live prince every day. But it didn’t
flabbergast them any. No, sir. I was proud of them. Somehow they seemed
to get dignified and to look like somebody in particular. I didn’t
understand it for a minute, but pretty soon I saw what it was—it was
good American citizenship. They knew who and what they were and they
were proud of it. Princes or ministers couldn’t make them feel ashamed,
for they knew in their hearts that princes and ministers were just men
like themselves.

“What’ll we do with these here vermin?” asked the leader of the farmers.

“I have granted that they go free,” said Motu, “but they are forever
banished from Japan.”

“Um....” said the farmer. “So far’s _you_ go, that’s all right. What
they done to you you can overlook if you want to. But so far as these
kids go, it’s a different thing. These Japanese men have bothered, and,
so far’s I kin see, tried actually to _harm_, these American boys.
Wa-al, us men don’t stand by to see leetle fellers nor wimmin—nor
anybody harmed if we can help it. Seems like we’re _bound_ to do
somethin’.”

Motu bowed. “The matter is in your hands,” he said. There was a twinkle
in his eye, too.

The farmers talked together a minute. Then they carried their prisoners
out on our dock. One farmer got ahold of the head and one of the feet of
The Man. “One, two, three,” called out the leader, and The Man went
whirling through the air, head over heels, till he splashed down in the
lake. Right after him came one of his men. As fast as one crawled back
on to the dock the farmers would jerk him up and duck him again. I
laughed till I almost busted my belt. Even the Japanese minister was
smiling a little.

“That’s enough,” said the farmers’ leader in a few minutes. “Now turn
’em loose—after ’em! Chase ’em! Don’t forgit you’ve got toes to your
boots!”

Off scooted the Japanese—pretty nearly drowned, I expect—and right on
their heels swooped the farmers. They didn’t forget the toes on their
boots, either. Every once in a while one of them would swing up his leg
and catch a Japanese right where his pants were tight—and that Japanese
would pretty nearly double the distance he was planning on for the next
jump. We watched them, our sides aching so we didn’t dare laugh again,
until they disappeared.

“American justice,” said the count, his eyes all twinkly. “We do it
differently in Japan—but maybe we could learn from you.... It has the
advantage of being sudden.”

We got in the big automobile and went to the count’s summer home and
stayed there three weeks. Then we had to go home, and so did Motu. We
felt pretty bad when we said good-by to him, for, after all, we were
just boys and he was a prince away off in Japan, so we wouldn’t be
likely ever to see him again.

But he said he would see us and would write to us. “Three times a year I
shall write until the last year of your lives and mine. Nor must our
hearts be sad at this parting, for fear we not meet again, for I, Motu,
promise you we shall meet, and here is my hand on it.”

We got aboard the train and then stood waving to him and the count as
long as we could see them. Pretty soon we went in and sat down and
didn’t speak for a long time. We were thinking about the whole
adventure, and what it had meant to us and to our countries.

“It beats all,” says Mark, after a while, “how h-h-history gets made or
don’t get m-made. Who’d ever think we fellows had headed off a war with
Japan?”

“Nobody,” says I.

Well, we got back to Wicksville, and in a couple of months the whole
thing seemed like a dream. I was beginning to think it was a dream when
one day what should happen but word from Mark Tidd to come right to his
house. I hurried over and found Plunk and Binney and a Japanese
gentleman from Washington there. He was some sort of attaché of the
legation, and, you won’t believe it, but he had for each of us a piece
of parchment covered with Japanese writing and big gold seals. He told
us they made us some sort of nobles in Japan, and regular Samurai
warriors. Besides that there was a present for each of us from
Motu—beautiful short swords like the one of his we found that day at the
hotel. They were all carved on the handles and engraved on the blades,
and Motu’s note said they were hundreds of years old and had been
carried by four of Japan’s greatest warriors. The note ended up:

Many men have worn these swords since they were forged, but none will
own them more worthily than my four American boy friends. Whenever you
look on these swords think of your friend Motu, who speaks your names
every day and counts the hours till he shall see you again.

“I hope we do see him sometime,” says I.

“You bet,” says Mark Tidd. “B-bein’ a prince never hurt him a bit. I
never knew a boy I l-liked better.”

“Nor me,” says I.

Then the messenger gave us another note, addressed to all of us on paper
from the White House. It was short, but there was a name at the end of
it that made it more valuable than a hundred pages from anybody else—for
that name was the name of the President.

My dear Friends [says the note],—You have served your country well in
the matter we know of, and your country thanks you. As your President I
like to think there are thousands of American boys who would have acted
as truly and wisely and bravely as you did.

Then he signed his name.

After the messenger was gone and we had talked things over for a while I
says:

“Where’ll we go next summer, fellows?”

“I d-don’t know,” says Mark Tidd. “We planned a quiet vacation this
time, and see what we got. L-let’s plan a wild-West sort of outing next
year, or a p-pirate cruise, or a t-trip up the Amazon among savages.
Then we’ll probably end up by having a comfortable, undisturbed, cozy
t-time. Things seem to go by contraries.”

“But this one was a mighty interestin’ contrary,” says Plunk. And we all
agreed with him.


                                THE END



Transcriber’s Notes

    Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).
    Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected.
    Retained anachronistic spelling and grammar as printed.





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