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MARK TIDD'S CITADEL ***




Produced by Roger Frank, the Google Books Library Project
(https://books.google.com) and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This book was
produced from images made available by the HathiTrust
Digital Library.)






[Illustration: LITTLE BY LITTLE THEY FORCED US BACK UNTIL ONE OF THEM
SQUEEZED THROUGH]




Mark Tidd’s Citadel

BY
CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND
author of “Mark Tidd”
“Mark Tidd in the Backwoods”
“Mark Tidd in Business” etc.


ILLUSTRATED

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON




Books by
CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND

MARK TIDD’S CITADEL. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
THE HIDDEN SPRING. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
MARK TIDD. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
MARK TIDD IN THE BACKWOODS. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
MARK TIDD IN BUSINESS. Illustrated. Post 8vo.
THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER. Illustrated. Cloth, Leather

HARPER A BROTHERS, NEW YORK


Mark Tidd’s Citadel
Copyright, 1916, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America
Published October, 1916




ILLUSTRATIONS

Little by Little They Forced Us Back Until One of Them
Squeezed Through

The B-bass Was Taken by Somebody that Wasn’t Very Big

I Could See It Was a Man’s Head and He Was Spying In

Little by Little He Jerked Me Toward the Shore

I Could Get Into the Water without the Least Bit of Danger
of Anybody’s Seeing Me

There We Stood and Beat Them Back as Fast as They Came On




MARK TIDD’S CITADEL




CHAPTER I


The joke was on Mark Tidd!

All four of us, Mark, Plunk Smalley, Binney Jenks, and Tallow Martin,
which is me, stood and looked at the big, ramshackle summer hotel and
then looked at one another—and three of us grinned. Grinned, did I say?
Maybe it started out with a grin, but it ended up with us rolling on the
grass and yelling. For the hotel was closed tight, and anybody with half
an eye could see it hadn’t been opened for years!

The three of us who laughed didn’t include Mark Tidd. He didn’t laugh.
He looked as if he was attending three funerals at once and trying to do
his duty by all of them. He was flabbergasted—and that’s the first time
I ever saw him in that shape. The whole hundred and sixty pounds of him
was flabbergasted. His little eyes looked sort of dazed; his jaw dropped
till his fat cheeks stretched out almost thin, and he didn’t have a word
to say.

Was the joke on him? Well, I should say! Here he had brought us all the
way from Michigan to Vermont to spend our vacation in this summer hotel
in the mountains—and the hotel hadn’t been running since Ethan Allen
licked the British! Now I know why the driver who brought us over had
chuckled so much, and why everybody else in the little town had seemed
to know something funny that they didn’t want to tell us as soon as we
told them where we were going.

I don’t blame them. I’d have laughed, too. Think of us out there at Lake
Ravona, ten miles from town—and pretty nearly a million miles from
Wicksville, where we lived. Think of us there, and then think about the
hotel being shut up and ready to fall down—and us hungry and likely to
keep on being hungry, with no chance to get anything to eat. It had cost
each of us close to twenty dollars railroad fare to get there, and it
would cost that much to get home again—with nothing to show for it. Why,
the jokers at the grocery would never have done laughing at us! Life
would be close to unbearable, and Mark Tidd’s reputation for smartness
would be hit so hard it would pretty nearly be a total wreck.

We three finished up laughing and waited to see what Mark would have to
say. In a minute his face pulled back into shape and _he_ began to grin,
too. That was one fine thing about Mark—he was ready to own up when the
horse was on him, and to laugh just as loud as anybody else.

“It l-l-looks,” says he, stuttering worse than he had for a month
back—“it looks l-like that advertisin’ book wasn’t quite up to
d-d-date.” He fumbled in his pocket and brought out a little booklet
with a picture on the cover of it and began studying it. “Um!” says he,
and then he sat down ker-plump and laughed so he shook all over like a
plate of jelly. “Six years old. Six. Wonder how they kept it s-s-so
clean in the depot.”

We had found the book in the depot one day when we were down visiting
with old Sam Clarke, the agent, and it had got us all excited by what it
said about fishing and mountains and deer in the woods and such like. It
sounded like about the best place in the world to go—and we’d never
stopped to see when it was printed. Six years! The hotel didn’t look
like it had been run for twenty-six.

Even Mrs. Tidd hadn’t noticed, and she is one of the most noticing women
you ever heard of. She hadn’t noticed, and she had liked the place as
well as we did—so much that she got our mothers to let us go with Mark.
Mr. Tidd was paying our expenses. He was rich now because he had
invented a turbine engine, and, because we had helped a little once when
some men had gotten his model away from him, he was going to send us all
to college, and every little while he did something fine for us—like
paying for this vacation trip.

“Well,” says I, “what next?”

“Better climb back into the wagon and make for home,” says Plunk
Smalley.

Mark wrinkled up his nose and looked out at the lake. “D-don’t exactly
fancy goin’ home like this,” he says.

“Nothin’ else to do,” says Binney Jenks.

Mark turned to the man who drove us out. “Kind of a humorous feller,
ain’t you?” he says, and the man grinned, not mean, but like he was
enjoying himself and wouldn’t mind being right friendly.

“I calc’late to know a joke when I see one,” says he.

“This is one, all r-right,” says Mark; “but maybe we can pull some of
the laugh out of it if we can get a good holt onto it.... Who owns this
l-lumber-pile?”

“Man named Ames.”

“What kind of a man is he?”

“Takes after you for flesh, and lets folks call him Jim,” says the
driver.

“Live in town?”

“Yes.”

“Guess we better call on Mr. Ames then,” says Mark. “Pile into the
wagon, f-fellers.”

“What’s the idea?” I asked him.

“’Ain’t g-got that far yet,” says Mark.

That was the way with him. You couldn’t get anything out of him till he
was ready to tell you. You could ask questions all day without finding
out a thing. So we got into the wagon and drove back the ten miles to
town. The driver stopped in front of a big white house.

“This here’s Ames’s place,” says he, “and there’s Jim.”

A fat man was working in the garden. He was not only fat, but tall and
wide across the shoulders. The fat was mostly in front and from his chin
to his legs he looked just like a whopping-big egg. There was a cane
hanging to his suspenders, I noticed.

He turned around to see who was stopping, and after squinting at us a
moment through colored glasses he dropped his hoe, reached for his cane,
and came hobbling toward us. He was lame. One of his legs—the left
one—was stiff at the knee. He leaned on his cane and sort of balanced
himself by holding his right hand on his hip. It made him come at you
side on.

I was so interested in his gait that I didn’t notice his face till he
was close by. Then I guessed I knew why the fellows all called him Jim.
He was the sort of man everybody would call Jim even if his name
happened to be Methuselah. His face was red—not the way Mark Tidd’s
cheeks are red, but red like a box-car. He had three chins in view and I
suspected a couple more hidden by his shirt. There was a little scraggly
mustache—hardly enough of it to pay him for keeping it, and right above
it was a nose. A nose, did I say? It was more like a monument. It was
the kind of nose folks call a pug, but this was a grown-up pug. It had
got its growth. If county fairs were to give prizes for the biggest pug
noses Mr. Ames would have the world’s championship. He had on a little
linen cap that looked as if he’d borrowed it from some boy.

“Howdy!” says he, and smiled—no, grinned.

“Howdy, Jim!” says our driver. “Some boarders just come in from the
Ravona House.”

“Whoo-oo-ssh!” says Mr. Ames, and stared at Mark. “Didn’t stay long, eh?
Board didn’t suit, maybe.”

“’Twasn’t the b-board, exactly,” says Mark, “though I’ve seen a better
t-t-table set. What we complain of is the crowds. We came to a quiet
p-place. Didn’t want to get in a jam. Soon’s we saw folks elbowin’ one
another all over the p-place we decided we couldn’t s-stay.”

“Git out of that wagon,” says Mr. Ames, “and set down.”

We did, while Mr. Ames grinned at us like we were good to eat.

“What d’ you calc’late on doin’?” says he.

“’Ain’t got no f-further than calc’latin’,” says Mark.

Mr. Ames pounded on the porch with his cane and shouted: “Ma, here’s
four boys—and one of ’em special size—to stay to supper. Don’t forget
the pie.”

That sounded pretty good to all of us, I can tell you. Twenty miles of
driving with nothing to eat is enough to make a fellow dance a jig at
the mention of a baked potato.

“Mr. Ames,” says Mark, “we ’ain’t never set anything on fire.”

“No?” says Mr. Ames, wondering what Mark was getting at, I expect.

“Nor we ’ain’t ever been arrested for doin’ d-d-damage to property.”

“You s’prise me,” says Mr. Ames.

“And we d-don’t want the whole town of Wicksville laughin’ at us.”

“Don’t wonder at it a mite.”

“We can c-cook.”

“And eat,” says Mr. Ames, with another grin.

“Folks say we can take care of ourselves.”

“I’d take their word for it.”

“Then, Mr. Ames, will you rent us your ho-ho-hotel?”

Well, sir! You could have knocked me over with a feather. You could have
done it with _half_ a feather, and wouldn’t have had to hit very hard,
either. Rent his hotel! I thought Mark had been hit by sunstroke.

“Calc’late to run it? Calc’late to go into the hotel business?”

“Calc’late to l-live in it,” says Mark. “Just the four of us.”

“Hum! Occupy the whole thirty-nine bedrooms, besides the office and
kitchens and dinin’-room and other parts of the buildin’?”

“We want the whole b-business. Don’t want anybody else there.”

Mr. Ames scratched his head and felt of his prize nose and eyed Mark and
the rest of us. “Shouldn’t be s’prised if we could make a deal,” says
he.

“How much?” says Mark, business-like as a banker.

“Calc’late to fish?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Calc’late to ketch any?”

“If they’re there.”

“Rent’ll be five pounds of bass, live weight, to be paid every Thursday.
I’ll come after it.” He pounded on the porch with his cane again and
bellowed: “Ma, I’ve rented the hotel. Got the fixin’s for four beds?”

“Got the fixin’s for forty,” says Ma Ames from the back of the house
somewheres. “Attic’s full of beddin’ from that tarnation summer-resort
place.”

“There.... How about dishes and cookin’-tools, ma?”

“Barn loft’s full of ’em.”

“Want to move in right away, eh?”

“Yes, sir,” says Mark.

“Haul you and your stuff out to-morrow. Included in the rent,” says Mr.
Ames.

Mark started in to thank him, and so did the rest of us, but it made him
bashful and fidgety and you could see he didn’t like it. Just in the
middle of it Ma Ames called, “Supper,” and in we went to one of the best
and biggest meals of victuals I ever tried to get the best of.




CHAPTER II


Next morning Mr. Ames got us out of bed before a rooster had time to
crow. He had the wagon all loaded and the horses hitched when we got
down-stairs, and all there was for us to do was to pile on.

Ten miles is quite a drive with a heavy load, but it was still early
when we pulled up alongside the porch of the big hotel. It made me sort
of gasp when I looked at it. It was so big, and we were going to live in
it all alone. Mr. Ames said there were thirty-nine bedrooms, and I
expect there were about that many more rooms of other kinds. It was a
funny-looking place, all bulges and bay-windows. It looked as if it had
been built in a dozen pieces by folks whose ideas were a heap different.
There were three stories to it, and almost every bedroom opened out on
to a gallery or a porch or a balcony.

The whole of it stood on a point going out into the lake. Just off the
end of the point was a tiny island with a little bridge across to it,
and on that was another big building, where, Mr. Ames told us, there
used to be a room for dancing, with bedrooms for the help up-stairs.

And that was all there was to it. As far as you could see there wasn’t
another building. Mr. Ames said there wasn’t a cottage on the lake and
that the nearest farm-house was four miles away. The woods came almost
down to the shore of the lake, and all around it the hills bulged up a
dozen times as high as any hill I ever saw in Michigan.

“Well,” says Mr. Ames, “how does she look to you?”

“F-fine,” says Mark; and we all agreed with him.

“Boats in the boat-house yonder,” says Mr. Ames. “Need paintin’ and
calkin’, I expect. I put the fixin’s in the wagon, so if you want a boat
you’ll have to tinker one up.”

“It’ll give us somethin’ to do,” says I, for I like to carpenter or
meddle with machinery or mend up things. “That’ll be my job.”

“I’ll see you settled,” says Mr. Ames, “and then git back to town.”

He helped us carry our things inside. Some of the stuff we piled in the
big, dusty, cobwebby office to be taken care of later. The bedding we
took up-stairs after we had selected our rooms. We took two bedrooms.
Plunk Smalley and I were in one and Mark was in the other with Binney,
because Binney was smallest and would leave enough room in bed for all
of Mark. The rooms were right over the office and were connected by a
door. There was a door out of Mark’s room on to a big round porch right
on top of the main porch of the hotel. They were dandy, pleasant rooms.

We put in most of the day cleaning up the rooms we wanted to use and
fixing up the big range in the kitchen. We expected to cook most of our
meals outdoors, but there would be some days when we couldn’t and that
range would come in handy. It was quite a job, but when we were through
our bedrooms and the office and the dining-room and the halls and
kitchen were as clean as they ever had been. By eight o’clock we were
plenty tired and ready for bed. Then we made a discovery that was going
to be important before we got out of that country—mighty important. We
didn’t have a candle or a lamp or a lantern!

“Better hustle into bed before it gets d-d-dark,” says Mark; and
up-stairs we scurried.

In about two jerks we were undressed and between the sheets. For a
minute everybody was still, and right there I began to feel spooky. I
got to thinking of the long halls and empty bedrooms—and the ten miles
between us and town. It wasn’t comfortable. It seemed like it got
pitch-dark in a minute, and then the wind, which we’d been too busy to
notice, started to blow around the hotel and make noises.

I reached over and felt of Plunk to be sure he was there, and I caught
him in the act of feeling for me. He felt the same way I did.

“Kinda still, ain’t it?” says I.

“I wouldn’t mind if a brass band was to start up under the window,” says
he.

In the other room we heard Mark and Binney begin to talk.

“Git over,” says Binney; “two-thirds of the bed is yours fair and
square, but I ain’t goin’ to sleep danglin’ over the edge.”

We heard Mark wallow over.

“Seems to me there’s l-lots of things rattlin’ and b-bangin’ around,”
says Mark.

“Is the door locked?” says Binney.

“Wasn’t any key,” says Mark.

“Maybe,” says Binney, “if we was to move a chair or somethin’ against it
it wouldn’t rattle so.”

I knew Binney wasn’t worrying about the rattling, but was doing a lot of
thinking about keeping out anything that might be prowling around, and I
nudged Plunk. We sort of giggled at Binney, but I guess both of us felt
the same way he did.

“Go on to sleep,” says Mark.

We were all quiet for a spell, and then Mark began to snore. He wasn’t
the nervous kind, and even if he had been a mite timid he’d have slept
just the same. I never saw such a fellow to eat and sleep.

Well, we laid there in the dark, listening, and after a while I dozed
off. All of a sudden I waked up with Plunk clutching the side of my
face.

“Hush!” says he.

I hushed all right and listened. At first I couldn’t hear anything, but
then I did hear a sound. Thump! Thump! Thump! it went. Then it stopped
and started over. Thump! Thump! Thump!

“Hear it?” whispered Plunk.

“Sure,” says I. “Be still and listen.”

Pretty soon I was sure I heard something soft-footed come sneaking along
the hall. I held my breath and listened with all my might. Whatever it
was, it came along, breathing so you could hear, and stopped by our door
and sniffed. Then it sounded just as if somebody said, “’Shhh!”

“I’m goin’ to see,” says I. “Layin’ here waitin’ to be bit is worse ’n
bein’ up and gettin’ bit.”

I jumped out of bed, with Plunk right after me, and rushed across the
room. Right in the middle of it I ran into somebody coming from the
other way, and down we went in a kicking, punching heap. Scared? Say, I
thought I’d just naturally scream. I guess maybe I did let out some kind
of a yell. Whatever I’d run into was pretty lively and thrashed around
considerable. All of a sudden I realized it was fat—mighty fat.

“Mark Tidd,” says I, “is that you?”

“Wough!” says he. “What you wanderin’ around at night like this for?”

“Same to you. This is our room, ain’t it? Was that you sniffin’ outside
our door?”

“No,” says he. “I heard it and g-g-got up to see.”

“Come on, then,” says I.

We untangled and made for the door. I grabbed it open and looked out.
The hall was as dark as a pocket. The only light was a window at the far
end that seemed about half a mile away. If anything had been between us
and that window we could have seen it, but nothing was there. We
listened. There wasn’t a sound.

“Huh!” says Mark. “Guess it was imagination.”

“Imagination nothin’,” says I. “We wouldn’t both imagine at once, would
we?”

“P-p-probably the wind, then.”

“Wind don’t thump,” says I.

We stood there and argued about it. Of a sudden Mark turned toward the
stairs that led down to the office. “Feels like a d-draught,” says he.
“I shut the outside door.”

“Maybe it blew open.”

“It c-couldn’t. I fixed it.”

“Let’s see, then,” says I; and all four of us in our nightgowns and bare
feet went traipsing down. The door was wide open.

Mark just stood looking at it without a word; then he took hold of his
ear and began to jerk at it like he always does when something happens
that puzzles him more than ordinary. He went close to the door and
looked at the catch as well as he could in the dark. It was all right.

“I shut the d-door and p-pushed the bolt,” says he.

“Then nobody could have got in from outside,” says I.

“Not through the door,” says he. “B-but it looks like somebody went out
of it.”

“What I heard was an animal,” says I, “and animals can’t push bolts—at
least not outside of a circus.”

“S-s-somebody pushed that bolt,” Mark says, stubbornly.

“All right,” says I. “Who was it?”

“I’d give a dollar to know,” says he.

“Sure you locked it?” Plunk asked.

Mark looked at him like he does when somebody’s said something
ridiculous.

“That b-b-bolt was pushed,” he stuttered.

“Well,” says I, “we’ll lock it now, anyhow,” and I slammed the door
shut and pushed the bolt. “Now let’s git back to bed.”

“I don’t like the idee of somebody sneakin’ around this place while
we’re asleep,” says Binney.

“Nor me,” says Plunk.

I didn’t exactly grin with joy at the thought of it myself, but what
could we do about it?

“Let’s set a watch,” says Binney. “Take turns.”

“Shucks!” says Mark.

But Binney stuck to it, and Plunk sided with him. So did I. We drew
matches to see who would watch first and I got the short one. The other
fellows piled into bed and I wrapped myself up in a quilt and sat in a
chair, shivering and pretty lonesome, I can tell you, especially after
the others went to sleep.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d had a light of some sort, but there
wasn’t any light—not even moonlight. So I just sat and wished it was
time for Mark to get up and take my place. I almost dozed off when, way
back in the woods, I heard a whistle. At first I didn’t really know
whether I heard it or not, but in a second it came again, and there was
no mistaking it. Somebody was out there among the trees and he was
whistling to somebody else. What did he whistle for, I wondered, and who
was he whistling to?

I shoved up the window and stepped out on the balcony. The wind almost
whipped my blanket off of me, but I hung on to it and looked all around.
Right in front of me was the lake as black as a great big ink-blot; at
the right was a bay; at the left was the shore and the road with the
woods stretching back. I couldn’t see a thing alive; in fact, I couldn’t
see very much of anything. Then I heard the whistle again, a little
plainer than before.

I strained my eyes in the direction it came from and waited. I kept on
waiting, and then almost before I realized it some kind of an animal
rushed out of the woods and ran up on the porch and jumped against the
door. Twice it jumped. Then it ran down on the grass and tore around to
the back of the hotel where I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t tell what kind
of an animal it was because I could scarcely see it at all, but it was
big. It looked almost as big as a calf.

I got back into the room and shut down the window, because it felt safer
to be inside when animals as big as calves were rampaging around
outside. Just as I got in there was a whopping-big slam down-stairs and
at the far end of the hotel. Just one slam, and then everything was
quiet.

I wrapped up tighter in my blanket and sat out the rest of my watch.
Then I called Mark and told him what I’d seen. I was tired and sleepy
and cold, so, in spite of being pretty nervous, I fell asleep in a
couple of minutes.




CHAPTER III


Nothing happened the rest of the night. Whatever it was that had been
prowling around the hotel didn’t prowl any more. By daylight it all
seemed like a joke. But it hadn’t been any joke in the dark, I can tell
you.

The cool air of that mountain lake made us hungry enough to eat the
blankets off the bed, but Mark said that wouldn’t be fair to Mr. Ames.
He said no hotel proprietor liked to have his boarders eat the blankets
except as a last resort. We built a fire in the big fireplace in the
dining-room and it wasn’t two minutes before we had coffee brewing and
bacon frizzling. Binney, who was considerable of a cook, was fixing up
some biscuits. So, you see, we didn’t really need the blankets, after
all.

“What’ll we do to-day?” says I.

“F-fix the boats,” says Mark. “Got to have the n-navy in shape. Can’t
tell when war’ll b-bust out, and we can’t have an enemy landin’ on our
coast. I calc’late we better have two dreadnoughts in tip-top fightin’
condition.”

We all went over to the boat-house. In it were a dozen clinker-bottomed
rowboats, a couple of flat bottoms, and, bottom-up on two saw-horses,


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