I started to swim back, pushing my dish-pan 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.