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 may 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 if 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 laughter.
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.