''We'd better hunt up Motu and tell him about these men lookin' for him," says I.
"I sort of calc'late from Motu's actions t-t- that we wouldn't be f-fetchin' him any news," says Mark.
"He may know," says I, "that he's bein' hunted for, but maybe he don't know the hunters are so warm."
"They are tolerable hot," says Mark, with an uncomfortable grin. "But I guess so long as Motu wants to mind his own b-business pretty strict, we'd better do the same. He knows what he's up to."
We got back to the hotel in a little while, but nobody else was there. We looked for Motu all over, but couldn't find hide or hair of him. I guess as soon as we got out of sight he went and hid up. But it wasn't long before Binney and Plunk came rampaging in, panting like a couple of grampuses, with their eyes bulging out and talk just spilling out of them in bunches. They both wanted to talk, and neither of them could manage it.
"Back there-" says Binney, and stopped to pant.
"We 'most bumped into-" says Plunk, and he stopped to puff.
"Lucky we was goin' cautious-" Binney says.
"Or," says Plunk, " nobody knows what-"
"They'd 'a' got us sure," says Binney.
"S-sit down," says Mark, "and breathe a couple of breaths and drink a dipper of water. Maybe by that time you'll both 'light. You're f-floppin' around like scared chickens."
"You'd be a scared chicken if you'd bumped into what we did," snapped Plunk.
"Yes, sir," says Binney. "Why, before we suspected a thing we almost stepped on 'em."
"On who?" says Mark.
"Two of them Japanese," says Plunk.
"Where?" says I, getting pretty excited myself.
"Sittin' down back from the road about a mile up," says Binney.
That made it sure it was two more Japanese. Our two couldn't have gotten where Plunk and Binney saw theirs.
"Then there's four of 'em," says I.
"Two, I said," Binney snapped.
Mark grinned, but there wasn't much enjoyment in that grin. "Don't calc'late," says he, "that you fellows have got any monopoly on seein' Japanese. We saw a c- c-couple ourselves."
"What?" Plunked almost yelled.
"Back there," says I, jerking my thumb over my finger.
"Motu's friends?" Binney asked.
"If they be," says I, "he don't appear anxious to see 'em, does he?"
"Are they why he's so partic'lar about keepin' out of sight?" Plunk asked.
"That's our guess," says Mark.
"You think they're after him?"
"Looks that way."
"Huh!" says Plunk. "Looks like a lot of trouble to be takin' for one boy. S'pose he's run away from home?"
"He's run quite a ways," says Mark, as sarcastic as could be, "and he must 'a' s-s- swum the Pacific Ocean on the way. This ain't any runnin'-away-from-home scrape. It's s-s-somethin' serious, I'll bet."
"And I'll bet," says Binney, "that I wisht I was back in the State of Michigan."
"If there's four Jap men lookin' for one Jap boy, and they're as close to him as these men are to Motu, it looks a heap like they'd get him," says Plunk.
"I ain't layin' any claim to him," says Binney. "I dun'no' what I'd do with a Japanese boy if I had him. Them men can have him, for all of me."
"I guess you said that without doin' m-m- much thinkin'," says Mark. "Just figger if you was in Japan and four Americans that had it in for you was t-tryin' to catch you. S'pose you didn't have any friends and didn't know the country. Wouldn't you be just a mite glad if somebody was to give you some help? Eh? Wouldn't you sort of l- l-look at it as though it was somebody's duty to help you? Tell me that. What kind of a country would you think Japan was if nobody l-lifted a finger to help you? Pretty rotten one, I guess. Well, that's how Motu's fixed here. He's in a strange country, bein' chased by men that'll do somethin' unpleasant to him. There ain't n- n-nobody to help him but us. It strikes me we can't get out of it if we wanted to, and, for one, I d-don't want to. 'Tain't a United States way of doin' things. I'm just tellin' you that if those men get Motu it'll be b- because I can't help it. I'm goin' to stick to him just like I'd stick to one of you. Then he can't go back home and say the United States is no good, and that American boys can't be depended on. Now what about it? If you f-feel like pullin' out, go ahead. But I'm goin' to stay, and I'm goin' to enlist with Motu."
Nobody said anything for a minute, then Plunk got up and sort of stretched and felt of his neck and blushed and says, "That goes for me, too. I'm with Mark."
"Me, too," says I.
Binney looked pretty embarrassed. "I guess I didn't think much before I spoke," says he. "I didn't have it clear in my head. I'm with you, and Motu can depend on me just as much as on the rest of you."
"B-bully for you," says Mark.
Well, sir, something happened then that clean took the wind out of my sails. It was pretty embarrassing, but, come to look at it now when everything's over, it was sort of pleasing and satisfying, too. It was Motu. He stepped right into the middle of us, and held out his hand to Mark.
"I heard," says he, his eyes shining, but his face was calm and dignified and without any more expression to it than a buckwheat griddle-cake. I expect it's the Japanese way not to let your face give away what you're thinking about. "What you said to the others I heard, and what they said in reply to you. It was as Samurai boy should speak, first for the honor of his country, then for his own honor. You, Mark Tidd, are Samurai," he turned to the rest of us, with hands stretched out, "and you, too, are Samurai. This story shall be told in my land, not this year alone, but for years to come. It shall be told how four American boys came to the aid of"-he paused, checked himself, then went on- "came to tile aid of Motu. It shall be made into a song."
"That's all r-right," says Mark, flustered as could be. "Don't mention it. You'd be doin' the s-same for us if we was in your place."
"I hope I should," says Motu. "It makes me proud to think I might act as you have acted."
"Well, then, let it go at that."
"There is a danger," says Motu; "it is my danger, but you offer to share it. For myself I would not accept, but for-for another reason I do accept. I can tell you nothing. I cannot tell you why there is a danger. But I can tell you that there will be no dishonor to you in giving me help. I have done nothing wrong."
"Oh," says Mark, "you didn't need to say that. We knew it already."
Motu shot him a look out of his black eyes that was good to see.
"Do you calc'late the four we saw are all there are after you, or can we expect more of them to come moseying along?"
"I think the four are all. There may be one other." He said that as if the one other was a different kind of person from the four, and you can take it from me as solemn fact, he was. Different! Well, I should say so. As different as a darning-needle is to a crow- bar or a weasel to a hippopotamus. "There may be one other, but he will think, not act," says Motu. "Him we should dread."
"One of those thinkers, is he?" says I. "Well, I guess we can match him. Huh! Wait till Mark Tidd gets to playin' checkers with your thinker, and we'll see."
"Ah," says Motu, looking at Mark again, this time like he was sort of weighing him and measuring him. "The one who will come has a cunning brain. Many plots he has made."
"If he goes makin' any plots around here he'll think he bumped into the side of a house-and a brick house, at that. Why, Mark Tidd-"
"That's p-p-plenty from you, Tallow," says Mark, sort of cross, but I could tell by his eyes that he was pleased just the same. He likes compliments, but the ones that tickle him most are the ones about his head. Mark Tidd would rather think up a great scheme than win the hundred-yard dash in the Olympic games-and I never could understand it. I guess it's because I'm stronger in the legs than inside the skull.
"The Man Who Will Come," says Binney, pronouncing it impressive, as if every word commenced with a capital letter. The way he said it made you sort of worry. The Man Who Will Come! Sounded like a threat. It was a sort of name. As a matter of fact it got to be a name, and we never called him anything else, even when we knew what his real name was.
"He'll make five," says Plunk. "That's one apiece. We ain't outnumbered, anyhow."
"They're men and we're boys," says Binney.
Mark was looking at Motu and thinking hard. I could tell that because he was pinching his ear.
"Motu," says he, "I want to a-a-ask you just one question. It will make a d-difference how we act."
"Ask," says Motu.
"Will those men h-hurt you? I mean will they-injure you?"
"No," says Motu. "They will seize me and hold me. I must not be seized and held. I must be free."
"All right," says Mark.
I heard Binney muttering to himself and listened. He was saying over and over again, "The Man Who Will Come .... The Man Who Will Come ...."
"Say," says I, "quit it. You give me the shivers."
"If you 'ain't got enough shivers," says he, "I've got a stock I can turn over to you without missin' 'em."
"Motu," says Mark, "do you calc'late they know w-w-where you are? Do you think they know you're here?"
"I do not believe they have found me yet. They have traced me to this lake, but they do not know I am still here. It was The Man Who Will Come who traced me. They will find me."
"But it gives us a little time to p-plan," says Mark. "If we can keep you hid for a couple of d-d-days it'll make a heap of difference."
"What good 'll a couple of days do? I wish they'd get at it and have it over with," says Plunk.
"There's goin' to be a siege," says Mark, "and we got to see that our castle's p- provisioned, and the moat full of water and the arms and armor in shape. They'll come with batterin'-rams and catapaults to knock breaches in our walls, and we've got to heat p-pitch to pour down on their heads. Hain't you ever read about any battles and sieges of castles like Froissart tells about in his chronicles?" He was off imagining again, and I knew there wasn't any use trying to get sense out of him while he was that way. Might as well try to play checkers with a bullfrog.
"Motu's a foreign prince," says he, "that's sought our p-p-protection. His enemies is comin' for him. They've got to tear our castle down about our ears to g-get him."
"All right," says I, "but when those real Japanese without anything imaginary about them get here I hope you'll have somethin' to stop 'em besides castles that you read about in some book. If it comes to a rumpus I'd rather have a pile of stones to throw than all the imagination in the public library."
Mark sort of squinted at me. "Hold your horses, Tallow. Before we're out of the woods you may be m-m-mighty glad I've read books, and gladder that I've got an imagination."
"Maybe so," says I, pretty dubious, but before we were out of the woods I got so I agreed with every word Mark said. Without his reading hitched on to his imagination I guess those Japs would have had Motu and would have eaten him in a sandwich, for all we could have done to prevent it. I've come to see that imagination's all right when you can compress it and shoot it into a cylinder with a piston in it like you do steam. Mark Tidd was a cylinder built to run on imagination.