Where have you b-been sleepin', Motu?" Mark asked while we were trying to catch the dog to operate on him for porcupine quill.
"There," says Motu, pointing to the hotel.
"But we searched it from one end to the other, and couldn't find a thing."
Motu smiled. "I show you," he said. "I had a place not easy to find."
He talked to his dog and after a while got close enough to him to hang on while we pulled out the quills. The dog yelped some, but we explained to him that it was necessary, and that he'd be a gone dog if we left him alone. Somehow that didn't seem to do him any good, and after we were through he ran off and hid under the porch.
"Bring the dog from Japan?" Plunk asked.
"No. I found him back there. He was lost. He wanted to stay with me."
Mark nudged me and whispered. "Good sign. When you f-find anybody a dog 'll trust like that it's pretty safe for p-people to trust him too."
It sort of surprised me the way Motu talked English. I supposed Japanese and Chinese always talked sort of funny like. "Me find li'l' dogee back topside," or something of that sort, but Motu pronounced his words right and was that particular about his grammar that it made me sort of ashamed. So I asked him about it.
"How'd you learn to talk English so good?" I says.
"I have gone to school in England at school they call Eton. Also I am coming to school in the United States some day-maybe."
I saw Mark looking at Motu with a queer expression like he was speculating about something and was surprised and a little excited by what he figured out.
"I'll show you where I slept if you like," says Motu, and we followed him into the hotel and up to the second floor. Way back at the end of the hall he took us into a bedroom and then into a closet off the bedroom. There he got down on his hands and knees and crawled through a little triangular hole where the rafters showed. We followed him. It brought us into a little round place with the walls all sloping up to a point like a clown's hat. In the middle it was big enough to stand straight, and there was lots of room to sleep and keep things.
Mark looked around as well as he could in tile dim light, for there wasn't a window- nothing but a few little holes in the roof.
"I know where we are," says he, satisfied with himself. "We're in the peak of that little t-tower just over the dining-room."
"How'd you ever f-find it?"
"My dog chased a little animal-a rat or a squirrel-into it. I followed to see where he went. It was a very good place. The sort of place I needed. Here I have lived."
"It's a dandy hidin'-place," says Mark, kind of meaningly.
"Yes," says Motu, as calm and cool as ice, but that is all he did say. There wasn't a word of explanation about it, or why he wanted to hills, or what he was afraid of, or anything. It began to look pretty mysterious to me and I wanted to talk it over with Mark. And there was that dagger, too. I didn't see it any place, and Motu didn't have it with him. Somehow I wanted to have it located.
"How about that dagger?" I asked right out.
Motu's teeth showed in a smile. I guess he was remembering how easy he had sneaked up and got it back from us.
"I have put the little sword in a safe place- where my careless hands cannot again lose it. I was in despair. I searched, but in vain. Then from the edge of the woods I saw the fat boy who is called Mark Tidd pick it from the ground. I was angry-yet I was glad. I knew where the little sword was, and I knew I should have it again."
"You might not," says Plunk, " if we hadn't left it laying around so careless."
"My father put the little sword in my hand. He said, `Motu, I give you this to keep fresh the honor of our family. Let it never pass from your hands.' So I would have taken it again, even though it had meant much fighting."
It sounded like something out of a book, but I guess it was all right. Foreigners do odd things, anyway, and to a man that isn't a foreigner they act sort of crazy. Maybe they think we act crazy, and I expect if we were to go to Japan we'd be foreigners, wouldn't we? It looks like there was something to be said on both sides of the argument. Anyhow, my father never talked to me as if he was reciting something out of Shakespeare's plays.
Mark began to crawl out of Motu's hiding- place and we followed after.
"We've got p-p-plenty of bedding to fix up a bed for you, Motu," says Mark. "Come on and pick out your bedroom."
"Many thanks. Of the bedding I shall borrow some blankets, but the bedroom-it is best, I think, that I should sleep where I have slept."
"L-look here," says Mark, "if you're afraid somebody 'll see you-"
Motu held up his hand. "What is best for me I know. If you do not want me here I will go away."
"Don't go gettin' on your high horse, now. We're glad to have you, and we're not tryin' to p-p-pry into your business. Sleep where you want to."
"It's too nice a day to waste in the house," says I. "I'm goin' outdoors and find somethin' to do."
"Let's explore," says Binney.
"Good," says Mark. "P-pretend we're the first white men that ever got here to this lake. We want to settle here, but we dassen't till we know the l-lay of the l-l- land. Best way is to divide. One party go one way, the other party go the other, till we meet. How's that?"
"Fine," says I. "Calc'late we'll meet any savages?"
"It's Injun country. Most likely they c-come here to fish and hunt. We want to go pretty cautious."
"How 'll we divide up?" says Plunk.
"You and Binney together, and Tallow and me. Motu can go with whichever he wants to."
"It is not best that I should go," says Motu. "Here I shall stay until you come back."
"All right," says Mark. "Whatever suits you ."
So we started off. I looked back in a few minutes and Motu was nowhere to be seen.
"Motu's ducked," says I to Mark.
"Yes," says he. "He's got some p-pretty good reason for keepin' out of sight. He ain't the kind to be afraid of nothin'. If he's hidin' it's because there's somethin' to hide from."
"I don't like the whole business," says I. "First here's a Japanese boy all alone. Where'd he come from and what's he doin' here? Next that boy's afraid of somethin'. What is it? Then we take him to live with us. If there's somethin' that's like to hurt him ain't it just as like to hurt us? That's what I want to know."
"I'm s-sort of wonderin' myself," says Mark.
"Maybe he's just run away from his folks," says I.
"No," says he; "it's somethin' more serious than that. Maybe these Japanese have feuds like the Chinamen. It might be that."
"Yes," says I, "and it might be that he's been borrowin' chickens from the neighbors without askin' permission, and he's sort of bein' looked for on account of it."
"Shucks!" says Mark, disgusted as could be. " You can see for yourself that Motu isn't the chicken-stealin' sort. There's somethin' all-fired interestin' about him-you'll see."
"Hope so," says I.
Then for a spell we didn't talk any, but went on through the woods, being careful to keep under cover on account of hostile Indians. We didn't sight any, but Mark saw considerable sign they'd left on their visits, and came to the conclusion that they used the lake quite a bit for one thing and another.
Pretty soon he began to sniff. He stopped and pointed his stubby nose first one way and then the other, and sniffed like all-git- out.
"Tryin' to play a solo?" says I.
"Be still," says he, "and smell."
I started in sniffing as hard as I could. Both of us stood there and sniffed a duet. Must have sounded sort of funny.
"Well," says I, "I calc'late I've sniffed enough for to-day."
"Smell anythin'?" says Mark.
" No," says I.
"Not smoke?" says he.
I started sniffing again, harder than ever. It's lucky I've got a good, well-constructed nose, or I'd have sniffed it clean off that day. But I got results. Sure as shooting I could get just the faintest whiff of a fire somewheres.
"Must be right ahead," says I. "That's where the wind's blowin' from."
Mark nodded. "Got to see what it is," says he. "War p-p-party maybe. We mustn't be taken by s'prise. Come on as quiet as you can."
We got on to our stomachs and wriggled along like a couple of alligators, though I will say Mark looked more like an armadillo. Alligators run more to length than to thickness, but Mark ran to vice versa as you might say. We just inched along, and as we went the smell of smoke got stronger.
There was a little hummock just ahead with lots of bushes on it. We made for it, getting our faces and hands nicely scratched up, and went up it like a couple of snails climbing a roof-if snails ever climb roofs. Mark was ahead. When he got to the top he flattened down as much as he could, and it looked to me like he was trying to shove himself right into the ground. I edged up alongside and looked.
Maybe you think I didn't crowd the ground a little myself. I'll bet I made a dent in it that's there to this day. For not thirty feet away was a little fire with two men bending over it cooking something or other. Their backs were toward us and so we couldn't see their faces, but we could tell they were short and broad. One of them had on overalls and a hickory shirt. The other one wore shabby black pants and a gray flannel shirt. I wanted to say something, but I didn't dare even whisper.
We laid there as still as a cat in front of a mouse-hole and watched. After a while one of the men turned, and we could see his face. It was a whole lot like Motu's. A little darker, and not so intelligent or handsome, but of the same race, all right. Then the other one turned, and he was a Japanese, too!
They ate what they'd been cooking, and then talked a little in their funny lingo. After that one of them laid down and shut his eyes, while the other one sat up with his eyes wide open. It seemed to me I never saw anybody who kept his eyes open so wide, and I says to myself that I'd bet his ears were open just as wide as his eyes. He was keeping guard.
Right off I began to wonder why two Japanese in a friendly country should think it was necessary to keep watch like that. They must have had some reason for it.
Mark reached over and touched my leg and then motioned back toward the hotel. I nodded, and we began to wiggle away feet first like a couple of crabs. We went pretty slow and careful, I can tell you. I don't believe I drew a breath till we had gone a hundred feet, and my heart was beating so loud I was sure a man could hear it a quarter of a mile away.
We kept on going slow and easy till we were around a little bend in the lake, and then we legged it for home.
"Same ones we saw on the road," says I.
'No," says Mark. "You ought to n-n-notice things more. Those fellows were dressed different. Both of them had on blue suits. It was another two."
"Then there's four of 'em around," says I.
"And maybe more," says he.
"Why do you s'pose they go by twos instead of keepin' together?"
"Tallow, sometimes I don't believe you've got anythin' to t-t-think with. If you was hunting the country for somebody or somethin' would you go in a crowd, or would you divide up and scour the locality that way, maybe watchin' the roads, and that sort of thing?"
"I'd divide up, of course."
"What're these fellows lookin' for?"
"Why," says I, "the only thing I know of that's hidin' isn't a thing, it's a boy and it's name is Motu."
"Yes," says he, "and I'll bet you a c-c- cookie that Motu is why these fellows are in the woods. They're boy-huntin', and Japanese boy at that."