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 swum 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 should 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 attache 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 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.