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 arc. 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 lovely 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 puzzled 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.
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 swans 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 he 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 any 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.