He knows we've stored our food over here," says Plunk.
Mark shrugged his shoulders. "If that was all I had to w-worry about," says he, "I'd start whistlin' a tune."
He walked to the door and stood looking out for quite a while. Finally he turned around and asked if anybody had seen a strong rope lying about.
"There's a big coil of half-inch rope upstairs," says I, "and a pulley alongside of it."
"F-f-fetch it down," says Mark.
It took two of us to carry it, and when we got down with it we saw Mark outside staring at the little bridge. We stared, too. It was about two feet wide, and maybe twenty feet long, all in one span. The far end of it connected with a board sidewalk just as it did on our end.
"Fetch a saw," says Mark. Binney found one inside and Mark began sawing in two the timbers at the far end. He stopped and motioned to us.
"Scatter around and keep m-moving," says he. "Go as if you were l-looking for something. I want to chase away Mr. Mysterious Visitor so he can't see what I'm doin'."
I was curious to know what he was up to myself, but all the same I hurried off with the others and we scurried all over that side of the lake. We ran here and there and up and down and sideways. If there was anybody around I'll bet we kept him moving so busy he didn't have much time to see what Mark Tidd was up to. In about an hour Mark whistled our whistle which meant to come back, and back we went.
At first it didn't look as if he'd been doing anything, but when I came to look close I saw he had cut through the timbers of the bridge on the shore end, and had driven a big staple in on each side. On the island end of the bridge he had cut through the timbers just the same, but had hitched them together again with a couple of whopping old hinges. I couldn't see any sense to it. Mark grinned and pointed up. There, to one of the timbers supporting a balcony, was attached the pulley with the rope running through.
"See?" says he.
"No," says I.
"D-drawbridge," says he. "Every citadel has 'em. In case of attack we hitch the rope to the staples on the other end of the b-b- bridge and yank. Up comes the bridge. There's t-twenty feet of water, and deep water, too, between us and the enemy."
"We won't ever be able to lift it," says I.
"I calculate we will," says he. "Got it r- rigged so we could."
He took us up-stairs to the balcony and showed us how he had made a weight of an old piece of iron pipe. When we wanted to pull up the bridge all we had to do was hook it to a loop in the rope and drop it off the balcony. Mark said it was heavy enough to lift the bridge alone, but that if we were in a hurry we could pull too and yank her up in a jiffy.
"And now," says he, "l-let's eat."
The rest of us were willing enough and while I built a fire the others went to peeling potatoes and one thing and another. We had flapjacks, too. Mark had learned how to fry them in a pan and flip them over in the air just like a regular camp cook. Whee! but they were good. We ate till there wasn't even a streak of batter in the bottom of the dish.
"Where do we sleep?" Binney wanted to know.
"S-same place," says Mark.
"Goin' to set watches?"
We went to bed in the dark again, for we hadn't been able to get any lights. Mark took the first watch. Not a thing happened, he told me when he woke me up. My watch was just the same-not even a suspicious sound, and it was the same with Plunk and Binney. All that night the fellow who owned the Turk dagger, if that's what it was, gave us a rest. It made me sort of hope he'd gone away.
"We've got to begin thinking about Mr. Ames's fish," says Mark in the morning. "Two of us better fish till noon, while the other two watch camp."
"We'll draw straws," says Plunk.
We did, and Mark and I were the ones to fish. We took one of the clinker-bottomed rowboats, though the paint wasn't quite dry. It didn't leak much. Each of us took an oar and we trolled with two lines. First we made a sweep down the far side of the lake, and inside of twenty minutes I'd landed a three-pound bass and Mark was fighting with a pickerel that weighed four pounds and a quarter when we got him into the boat. For ten minutes the fish let us alone; then Mark hitched on to a regular old sockdolager of a bass, and, after a quarter of an hour of about as busy fishing as anybody ever did we got him into the boat. He weighed just short of five pounds. Mark dropped a lead sinker down his throat to give him a little more heft, and weighed him again.
"Guess we made a m-mistake first time," says he. "Look! He weighs f-five pounds and an ounce."
"That's right," says I. "Gives Plunk and Binney a mark to shoot at. Five-pound bass ain't biting every hook that dangles in the water."
"Calc'late we got about enough fish, eh?"
"Enough to pay Mr. Ames and more'n we can eat besides."
"Then," says he, "l-let's take a look around."
We rowed about a mile down the lake toward the road and got out.
"Wonder if anybody ever passes here," I says. "Let's wait and see."
The road didn't look like it was traveled over as much as Main Street in Wicksville, and I didn't very much expect to see anybody unless we waited all day. But Mark liked the idea of trying, so we hid among the underbrush and pretended we were a scouting-party from the castle. We talked in whispers and were pretty cautious, I can tell you, for Mark said that part of the country was swarming with foraging parties of the enemy. He said they'd either shut us up in a dungeon fifty feet deep or else sell us into slavery in a far country if we got caught.
We laid there half an hour, maybe, and were just about ready to give it up, when Mark shoved his elbow into my ribs and says hush in my car. I listened. Sure enough, I could hear somebody shuffling along the road. We held our breaths and waited. In a minute a man came in sight. He was a short man, and looked sort of funny even at a distance. Somehow he didn't look American. When he got closer we saw he wasn't American, but some sort of a foreigner. He didn't look like he was used to wearing American clothes, for they didn't set natural on him. About ten feet behind him came another man that looked enough like him to be his twin brother. They were sort of dark, but I knew right off they weren't Indians, and their eyes were black and different from any eyes I'd ever seen. I wondered what country they could have come from.
They didn't say a word, but just mogged along as if they'd been walking a long ways and had quite a ways to go yet. When they were out of sight I whispered to Mark:
"Italians, d'you think?"
"No," says he, thoughtful-like.
"Not Indians," says I.
"No," says he.
"What then?" says I.
"Can't quite make out. Did you notice their eyes?"
"Yes," says I.
"Sort of s-s-slantin', wasn't they?"
"Yes," says I.
"What race has slantin' eyes?"
"The Chinee," says I.
"Yes," says he, "but the Chinee have pigtails."
"Maybe these have under their hats."
"No," says he. "I n-n-noticed when one of 'em took his hat off. I calc'late," says he, "that those men were from Asia all right, but not from China. My guess is they were Japanese."
Well, sir, I remembered some pictures in a book home-one of these travel books- and those men did look just like Japanese. I guessed Mark was right.
"But what would Japanese be doing way up here in the mountains?" says I.
He shook his head. "More'n I can guess .... Just like it's more'n I can guess what a dagger from Asia or Africa would be getting lost near our hotel for."
I can tell you that startled me. I hadn't seen any connection between the two men we saw and the dagger, but right off I began to think there might be some.
"But that dagger was Turk or somethin'," says I.
"I dun'no'," says he. "It was from Asia, all right, but it might as well be from Japan as anywhere else, so f-f-far's I can see."
That was so.
"Do you suppose those Japanese men were the ones that were monkeying around the hotel?"
"No," says Mark. "I don't believe there was but one man in the hotel. Those two l-l- looked like they came from a long ways off to-day."
"I wonder if they work around here?"
"D-don't believe it. Somehow Japanese don't fit into the scenery here. Let's follow after those f-fellows a ways."
I was willing, so, cautious as Indians, we trailed after the two Japanese. It was better than pretending we were scouts. There was excitement about it, for we didn't know what those men might do if they discovered we were spying on them. Yes, sir, it was better than any game. I guess doing the real thing is always better than playing you're doing it, just the same as eating ice-cream is a lot more fun than pretending you are.
They walked pretty fast, and never looked around, but for all that we didn't take any chances. Always we kept close to the side of the road so we could duck into the bushes if they showed signs of being suspicious, and as much as we could we kept just around a turn of the road from them. That was pretty easy, because the road was as full of turns as a pretzel.
We'd followed them maybe twenty minutes when I saw the first one stop and hold up his hand. The other one stopped, too. Then, so quick you could hardly follow them, they dived into the bushes.
"Huh!" says I. "Funny way to be actin'."
Mark didn't say anything, but gave me a shove over the ditch into the underbrush.
"They heard something comin'," says he, "and d-ducked because they didn't want to be seen. Now I know they don't work around here, and I'm pretty sure they came here for some purpose. They don't want folks to know they're here, that's what's the matter with them. They know folks in this part of the country would get curious if they saw a couple of Japanese wanderin' about."
"I wish," says I, "that I could get that dagger out of my head. It ain't a pleasant thing to think about when you're out here in the woods with two full-grown Japanese a- hidin' close by."
Mark grinned a little. "We figgered on a n- n-nice, quiet summer," says he.
"Looks like we weren't the kind of folks that get quiet summers," says I. "We hain't had one lately."
In five minutes a rickety old farm-wagon came along. It was what scared the Japanese out of the road, all right. We didn't show ourselves. It went banging past, and, as soon as it was safe, we poked out our heads. The Japanese weren't in sight. We waited, but they didn't come. We waited some more, and some more after that, but not another sign did we see of them. It didn't give you a pleasant feeling, I can tell you. We didn't know where they might be sneaking in the woods behind us.
"I'm goin' back to the boat," says I, "and I'm goin' to row out into the middle of the lake. It's safe there. Nobody can crawl up on you when you ain't lookin'."
Mark grinned again. "That s-s-sounds good to me," says he. "I've got a creepy feelin' at the back of my neck myself."