"The first thing to remember just n-now," says Mark, "is to act like we didn't have any worry. They don't know Motu's here. So we've got to act natural and do just like we would do if he wasn't here at all."
"As how?" says I.
"Plunk and Binney b-better go fishin' as soon as supper's over. Motu 'll be just keepin' out of sight. You and I'll project around here to see what we can scheme out."
So we got supper and ate it inside where Motu wouldn't be seen. Afterward he went up-stairs, I expect to his hiding-place, and Mark and I went out on the big front porch. We sat there and talked for a while. All at once a big rabbit shot out of the bushes with its ears back like it was planning on making considerable speed. He was coming blind, but I got up to take a shy at him and he saw me. Well, sir, he was one flabbergasted rabbit. He stopped and then jumped sideways and then jumped the other way. For a minute he tried to run four ways at once, which is a hard thing to do. Then he made up his mind and scooted off along the shore till he got to a clump of little trees and disappeared.
"Uh!" says Mark.
"What you gruntin' for?"
"F-funny-actin' rabbit," says he. "What d'you calc'late made him come rushin' out like that?"
"Somethin' scared him," says I.
"Yes," says he, "and I'll bet I know what it was. We're bein' watched, Tallow. That rabbit marked the comin' of the f-f-first Jap."
"Well?" says I.
"Lucky there's rabbits," says he. "When you're sure you're b-bein' watched you can see to it the watcher don't see anythin' to be of profit to him." He sat pinching his cheek for a couple of minutes. Then he says: "Tallow, get up and s-s-stretch. Then stroll into the hotel slow and sneak up to the t- top. Don't pass any windows. Get as high as you can over on this side and then take a look down on those bushes there. From above you may be able to see somethin'."
I did what he said, and climbed up as near the roof of the hotel as I could get. Then I crawled over to a window that was facing the way the rabbit came from and looked down. I couldn't see anything but trees and bushes and water, and the brown of the road winding away till it turned a bend and went out of sight.
But, I've noticed, one look doesn't always show you all there is to see. Lots of times you need to look twice, and sometimes three looks don't do any harm. I kept on squinting away-to see something move. When you look down like that, on a mass of leaves, you can't pick out objects. But just let something move and you have it spotted. So I watched for a motion. It was fifteen minutes before I saw anything, and then I saw the top of a bush crowd over and spring back. After that I knew where to keep my eyes, and you can believe I kept them there good and sharp. Pretty soon I saw more movement, and in a minute I watched something dark crawl across a little open patch. It was a man, all right.
I'd seen all I'd been sent to see, so I went on down to Mark and told him.
"They'd just send one m-man to spy around," says he.
"I hope he gets an eyeful," says I.
"Don't tell Plunk or Binney," says he. "They might do somethin' suspicious."
"Here they come," says I, and there they did come with a dozen nice perch for breakfast. I pretended to stick up my nose and says:
"I don't see any bass. Not a bass. Huh! Well, it makes a heap of difference who goes fishin'. Some day Mark and I'll take you along and show you how it's done. It's easy."
Plunk was mad in a minute. "There ain't a better fish in the world than a perch," says he. "I'd rather eat one perch than a ton of bass."
"Maybe," says I, "but would you rather catch 'em?" I had him there, all right, and he didn't have another word to say.
"I s'pose you're goin' to set a watch tonight," says Binney.
"Yes," says Mark, "and we'll watch in c-c- couples. Tallow and I will sit up till midnight, and you can come on till mornin'."
"All right," says Plunk. "I 'm ready to turn in now. Come on, Binney."
We all went into the hotel and Binney and Plunk went to bed. Mark and I sneaked up to the top story, where there was a sort of balcony we could get out on and see as well as it was possible to see in the dark. There wasn't much chance for anybody to see us.
Up there we sat and sat, and it got cold. Whee! but it got cold. I had enough of it. "I'm willin' to watch," I whispered, "but I want to watch warm. Beginnin' now," says I, "I watch inside. You can stay here and freeze if you want to."
"Maybe it'll b-b-be a good idea to patrol the hotel," says Mark.
So we set out stumbling through the long corridors, stopping every minute or so to peer out of a window. We went through the third floor and the second floor and most of the first floor. Then we sat down for a while in the office. It was as dark as pitch and scary enough to suit anybody. We hadn't sat there long till Mark touched my arm and said in my car, so low I could hardly hear him:
I looked. There was a round blot against the window. It moved, and I could see it was a man's head and he was spying in. I knew he couldn't see us in the dark, but for all that it wasn't the most comfortable feeling in the world. Pretty soon the head went out of sight, but it showed up again in another window. Then it disappeared and we could hear stealthy footsteps on the big porch.
The next thing was a rattle at the doorknob. Then, slow, slow, slow, a crack at a time, the door began to open. I was shaking all over and my heart was thumping so it felt like it would shake the building. I reached out and felt of Mark to make sure he was there. If I had felt for him and found he wasn't there I believe I'd have screeched like an owl and tried to climb the walls. But he was there, all right. His hand that I touched wasn't very steady, either. I guess Mark Tidd was as scared as I was.
Now the door was open a foot, and the line of light disappeared to the height of a short man. In a minute the light, such as it was, was there again, and we knew the visitor was inside. Inside! Right in the room with us, and though it was a pretty good-sized room, it wasn't half big enough to suit me. I'd have been willing to have it a mile square.
As I said, it was as dark as a pocket, and there wasn't a chance of the man seeing us unless he stumbled over us. Mark put his hand on my knee as much as to say, "Keep quiet," but I didn't need anybody to tell me to keep quiet. I never felt more like being still in my life. I quit breathing and I guess it was five minutes before I started up again. I didn't believe a fellow could go five minutes without breathing, but I do now. I think I could go ten minutes if I was pushed.
We could hear the man feeling along the wall. It was just a soft rub with a little rustle. He was trying to find the door, I expect. He passed along the wall farthest away from us, and I was much obliged to him. He was plenty near for all the pleasure I could get out of his company. He found the door all right, because I heard him stumble on the step of the stairs. For quite a while everything was as silent as an undertaker's shop at midnight. The man was waiting to make sure nobody had heard him. Then we could hear him start to creep up the stairs. We let him go. Somehow it didn't seem worth while to stop him. Maybe if I'd had a Gatling gun and a Fiji war-club and a Russian bomb and a suit of armor and a battle-ax I might have asked him where he was going. But I didn't, so I couldn't see a particle of use in interrupting him. Anyhow, he might not have liked it to be interrupted and he was a sort of guest. It isn't polite to bother your guests.
We sat still about an hour, it seemed. Then Mark whispered:
"Let him g-go."
"You don't notice me stoppin' him any, do you?"
"We could scare him out," says he, "but it's best to l-l-let him prowl. He won't hurt anybody or anythin', and he won't find Motu. Maybe he'll go away, thinkin' Motu isn't here at all."
"I hate to let him get away without anythin' happenin' to him," says I. "I don't like to get as scared as I was and pay nobody back for it."
Mark chuckled the faintest kind of a chuckle. "It might do him good if we f-f-f- fixed up somethin' to amuse him," says he. "Somethin' he wouldn't suspect us of. Lemme think."
"Go ahead," says I. "Thinkin' can be done at all hours here."
"Where'd Plunk and Binney leave their bait- cans?" says he.
"Just outside the door."
"Sneak over and get 'em," says he.
I wasn't very anxious to, but I wasn't anxious to let Mark see I wasn't anxious, so I crawled over and reached through the door. The cans were there and I fetched them along. Mark dumped the worms and dirt out of them. They were big tomato-cans about five inches high and both of them had their tops bent back where they had been opened with a can-opener.
"Got some string?" says Mark.
I gave him a fish-line that I had in my pocket. He cut it and fastened the cans together with a piece about four feet long. Then he went toward the stairs as still as a fish swimming in a lake. He had taken off his shoes. In two jerks of a lamb's tail he was back.
"What did you do?" says I.
"Sit still and wait," says he.
"Let's hide behind the counter, then," says I.
We did. For half an hour we scrooched down behind that counter, waiting. Then all of a sudden there was a little jangle at the head of the stairs, and right on top of it there was a big jangle followed by a yell, and somebody came bumpety-bump down head over heels, with those tin cans whanging and banging after him. I knew right off what Mark had done. He had put one can on each side of the stairs at the top, with the string stretching across between them. As soon as Mr. Jap came along his feet hit the string and jerked the cans together behind him with a bang. Then he'd tripped and come down head over apple- cart.
He hit the bottom with a whang, pretty scared by that time, I calculate. In a jiffy he was on his feet and streaking it for the door. Just as he got opposite us Mark Tidd let out the worst screech I ever heard. It sounded like a combination of a wildcat and a fire- whistle. Spooky? It was the blood- curdlingest yell I ever heard.
The Jap let out one squawk and dived at the door head first. Then he ran.
I just laid back and laughed, not out loud, you understand, but silent, like Natty Bumppo in the Leatherstocking Tales. I was even with that Jap for the scare he gave me, all right-even and a little over. I'll bet he thought the hotel was haunted by the worst kind of a ghost, and I'll bet he didn't stop running till somebody stopped him.
"G-guess we can go to bed now," says Mark. "Don't believe anybody 'll come foolin' around again till mornin'."
I didn't think so, either, so we went upstairs, chuckling like all-git-out. When we got there Plunk and Binney were sitting up shaking in bed so they almost threw the bedclothes on the floor.
"What-what was that?" Binney says .
"That," says I, "was the official ghost of Lake Ravona. Wasn't he a peach?"
" Huh !" says Plunk. "Next time you want to have any ghosts yellin' around, just let a feller know. I'll bet you scared ten pounds off of me, and I ain't so fat I could lose it like some folks I know."
"No," says Mark, who was pretty sensitive about his fat and didn't like to have folks mentioning it-"no, you ain't fat below the neck, but from there up there ain't so m-m- much to say for you."
"Is it our turn to watch?" says Binney.
"There won't be any more watchin' tonight," says Mark. "The ghost'll see to t- that."