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 loch "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 boathouse 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 M ark. "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 any 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.
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."