Tom, just as soon as they had
entered the great hall, had fixed his eyes on several
old-time figures that stood in niches, each representing
some period of the history of early France and showing
the type of armor worn by the fighting knights of
“Hide behind that knight there!
Quick, Jack!” he now hissed into the ear of
As quick as a flash both of the air
service boys shot toward their separate goals.
Shuffling footsteps sounded that told of some one
coming; but thanks to the swiftness of their movements
the boys managed to conceal themselves in time.
Peeping out from behind the coats
of chained mail that screened them Jack and Tom fastened
their eyes on the advancing figure. Just as they
expected, it proved to be a soldier who had the task
of serving while the general was celebrating with
his friends and fellow officers.
He was carrying a tray on which were
several empty bottles, and it could be easily guessed
that the soldier had been sent for a further supply
of wine from the cellar below.
They could hear him mumbling to himself,
as though not very happy, despite his opportunities
to tilt the bottles up and drain the last drop left
in each. This he was doing now as the boys watched,
but continuing to mutter.
Then they saw him draw his sleeve
across his face, and when he took it down to the astonishment
of the watchers there were streaks of blood marking
both cheeks and nose. Evidently General von Berthold
was considerable of a bully and tyrant when in his
cups, even as he may have been a severe martinet when
Jack ground his teeth at seeing this
exhibition of pettiness on the part of the general.
He had heard more than once that German officers, from
sub-lieutenants upward, were terribly severe with their
men, treating them brutally, and acting as though
they were themselves of a superior class; but this
was the first time he had actually come in contact
with anything of the kind.
“What fools!” Jack muttered
to himself. “Why can’t they take a
lesson from Russia, where the people have risen and
put ever so many of their former officers to death.
And Russian commanders were gentle beside these domineering
brutes. But they’ll get their dose some
day before long, that’s as sure as fate.
And poor little Helene!” Jack’s heart was
heavy as he thought of his little protege’s sister.
The man picked up his tray again and
went stumbling along the hall, still muttering, then
chuckling half hysterically, as though some pleasant
thought had flashed across his mind. Jack imagined
he must be anticipating a day of reckoning that was
coming a day when old scores would be wiped
out and the slate be made clean for a new deal.
More than ever Jack was determined
that little Helene should not be left in the charge
of such an ill-tempered man. If General von Berthold
could show such spleen because his man servant displeased
him slightly he was apt to treat a child cruelly.
But the coast being clear, Tom issued
forth and beckoned to his companion to come along.
They hastened up the broad stairs of the chateau,
reaching the second floor without mishap.
Here they found a maze of passages
that would have puzzled any one lacking the ability
Tom possessed for solving riddles.
“Which way next?” Jack
whispered in dismay, as he turned from one to another
of the various passageways branching off from the main
“Always keep to the right,”
answered his companion. “Remember that wing
is the only one saved from the wreck.”
He himself was looking at the floor,
for there was sufficient light to enable him to see.
Jack’s eyes followed those of his chum, and he
could not keep from uttering a low exclamation of
admiration as he comprehended the system Tom was following.
When the vandals had attempted several
times to wreck the chateau in a general spirit of
destructiveness, the dust had settled heavily over
everything. They had noticed it down below, and
on the stairs as well, as they came along. It
was up here, too, on the floor of the main hall, as
well as those in various passages leading into unknown
depths of the great building.
Tom was selecting that passage which
he could see from the multitude of footprints had
been most generally used. It was indeed a clever
idea of the air service boy’s, and one that
promised to be crowned with success.
“We’ll go this way, and
try it out,” he told Jack, commencing to move
along as he spoke.
Jack, for a wonder, was silent.
Truth to tell, he found himself lost in admiration
of the cleverness shown by his chum, and of the plan
which he felt certain would never have occurred to
When the light became dim Tom was
provided with a supply of matches, which fact further
surprised and humiliated Jack, because on investigating
his own pockets he could produce only two matches.
They went down several steps, only
to mount again to the same level a few minutes later.
Jack could easily believe they must have reached the
extremity of that extensive right wing. He caught
the sound of heavy voices in discussion, coming from
exactly below; which told him the dining-hall must
be in that quarter.
So far they had fortunately met no
one. Jack wondered what would happen if they
should come upon a sentry standing guard, perhaps over
the apartment where the general slept when he could
tear himself away from his pleasures and his work.
But his confidence in Tom had mounted to such heights
by now that he expected his pilot would be equal to
even that occasion.
Then Tom stopped short.
He seemed to be examining something
at his feet, for he had struck one more of his matches.
Jack, seeing him look at a closed door, fancied that
their search was in a fair way of coming to a successful
No sooner had the match expired than
Tom gently tried the door. He did not seem very
much surprised to find it locked. Bending down
he next proceeded to examine the lock, for it seemed
to be provided with one, though many of the other
doors were not, such things not being in general use
in the centuries back, when this ancient pile of stone
He turned to his companion and whispered encouragingly.
“She must be in that room, for
many feet have passed in and out. Among the footprints
close by here are several small, childish ones.
We are surely on the right track, Jack.”
“H’m! but the door seems
to be fast. And I suppose the key is in von Berthold’s
pocket right now. How in the wide world are we
going to get in there to save Helene?”
“We’ll settle that,”
snapped Tom. “There’s always a way
to do a thing. On either side there’s a
door. Let’s see if one of those happens
to be unfastened.”
The very first trial brought success,
and Jack began to feel a glow of coming good fortune.
If they were not interrupted in their work he believed
that nothing could long withstand such a determined
spirit as Tom always injected into anything he undertook.
It accounted for his successes in school sports, and
he carried the same characteristic with him into army
They passed into the dark recesses
of the room that seemed to adjoin the one of the locked
door. Jack could see a window ahead, for a certain
amount of light filtered through the small dusty diamond-shaped
panes of glass. He even noted a tree without,
its branches moving in the breeze that crossed this
ridge elevation, though they had not felt it down in
Tom closed the door after them.
Then again he struck a match, eager to survey their
surroundings before attacking the problem that now
Some old-time furniture could be seen,
but in a dilapidated condition, as though vandal hands
had used an ax on the rare wood, regardless of its
value. Dust lay everywhere, dust that may have
come from the frequent explosion of grenades used
in the process of demolition.
The match went out, leaving Jack still
staring about him. It seemed like a strange dream
to him, anything but a reality. But there was
Tom shuffling across to the window. Jack began
to get a grip on the probable scheme that had appealed
to his chum, and also a grip on himself, for he suddenly
realized that he had not been doing his part.
Why, of course, the only possible
way of reaching that other room would be through means
of a connecting link; and this could be furnished
through the windows.
Tom was already leaning out, and investigating
affairs. It was a precarious moment and the decision
to be arrived at was important. But having come
this far, and taken such desperate chances, they must
keep going until success had crowned their efforts,
or it was proved that absolutely nothing could be
Tom turned and beckoned to his comrade.
“It can be done, don’t
you think, Jack? But we must be very careful,”
came in softest tones. “There’s a
narrow projecting ledge that will serve us for a footing;
but we must make sure of every step, because a tumble
would break our necks.”
Jack peered out and looked carefully about.
“Yes,” he finally announced,
“this is our only chance. But as Jeanne
and Helene are my especial care I’m going first,
Tom. I’ve already imposed on you and not
done my full share since entering the chateau.”
With these words Jack crawled out of the window.