As Tom leaned out of the window
he could just manage to see the figure of his chum
flattened against the stone wall of the chateau.
Jack was clinging close, like a human fly might have
done, clutching some object which allowed him to move
his feet along the slender ledge.
“Come on; it’s all right!” floated
back in a whisper.
Tom was not waiting to be assured
on that point. Already he had pushed his body
halfway over the window-sill, and his groping feet
sought the friendly ledge. Then he, too, started
to shuffle along, finding some means for holding himself
Of course it was not pleasant to contemplate
a fall. The air service boys knew there was a
considerable depth lying below, and it might be that
hard stones lay there.
They refused, however, to allow themselves
to think of such a possibility. Besides, it was
only a matter of a dozen feet or so, when the adjoining
window would be within their reach.
Why, there was Jack crawling over
the sill even as Tom was fairly on the way, proving
that the feat was an easy one after all.
Tom, following in Jack’s footsteps,
had one thrill when his foot slipped and for a brief
space of time he actually feared he was about to take
the downward plunge. Fortunately he had a desperate
hold with the hand just thrust forward, and this kept
him in place until he could search out another hand-grip.
It caused him to pant with the extra
exertion, and he was breathing like a spent runner
when he too crept into the room. Here Jack’s
voice was at his ear whispering:
“Some one asleep here, for I
can hear soft breathing over yonder, where I think
there’s a cot.” He proceeded to draw
Tom after him, though both were down on their knees
at the time, with groping hands extended in front
Now Jack knew he was alongside the
cot, for the sleeper had stirred restlessly.
Then the regular breathing was resumed, though Jack
believed he had heard something akin to a sigh well
He put out his hands and gently felt
to make sure that it was a child, for any mistake
at this stage would prove most serious.
Jack uttered the name softly, but
the breathing still continued. Again did he speak,
this time raising his voice slightly. He knew
that he must have succeeded in awakening the little
sleeper; doubtless she was lying there wondering whether
it might be all a dream. Perhaps she even thought
it was her mother calling her from her slumber.
Tom now ventured to approach a little
nearer, ready to act on the spur of the moment should
the child be frightened and start to scream.
“Helene, we are friends of your
sister Jeanne,” Jack said. “She is
in good hands, and on her way to Paris. We have
come to try to take you to her. Do not be frightened,
Helene. We are two American boys, and if you
will only trust us we promise to carry you away from
here. Have courage and tell me that you are not
afraid to go with us to Jeanne.”
The sympathetic Jack found a little
hand, for the child suddenly sat upright. This
he continued to pat gently even as he and Tom continued
to reassure her. Perhaps his manner of doing
this influenced Helene even more than their words,
which of course she could hardly understand as yet,
after being so suddenly awakened.
“Oh, I am so glad you have come
from Jeanne,” she finally managed to say, though
her childish voice vibrated from the effect of her
“And will you gladly go away
with us, Helene?” asked Jack. “You
are not happy here with your uncle, are you?”
“Oh, no, no! He is so unkind,”
she said with a shudder that Jack could easily detect.
“He even whipped me because I cried for my mother
and Jeanne. So I will go with you, and do anything
How understandingly she talked for
one so young! Jack had marveled that Jeanne should
show such remarkable qualities and appear so self-reliant;
and apparently Helene was like her. But, alas,
war had aged even the babies caught in its snare.
“Listen, Helene,” Jack
went on to say, “do you think you could dress
yourself without having a light?”
“Oh, yes, m’sieu, I am sure I can!”
That caused Tom to chuckle with relief,
for he felt pretty certain that neither he nor Jack
could have managed that, even if given all the illumination
heart might wish. And, moreover, Tom felt that
he, at least, did not want to try.
“Then get your clothes on just
as fast as you can, Helene,” said Tom.
“We will be waiting, and trying to figure out
what the next move shall be.”
His last words reminded Jack of the
fact that they were now faced by another knotty problem.
If the door was locked and the key safe in the possession
of the gruff old general below, how then could they
take the child away?
He knew it would be utterly impossible
to get her to the other window by means of that ledge;
for the task had been difficult enough when both hands
But evidently resourceful Tom had
already conceived a plan for he was busying himself
with the cot from which Helene had so recently arisen
and now called to Jack.
Close by the child could be heard
moving about, as her nimble little fingers secured
first one article of apparel and then another, spurred
on by the wild hope of once more seeing her dearly
Jack, pushing forward, found his chum
had turned the cot over, and seemed to be working
swiftly at something.
“What have you found, Tom?” he asked.
“As luck would have it, Jack,
this cot has a rope under the mattress in place of
the usual spring. And it seems to be a good stout
rope in the bargain, I’m glad to tell you.”
“Now I get you, Tom! Good! We can
slip down that way.”
“If the rope turns out to be
long enough. I can put Helene in your arms and
drop you down. Then I can follow. I’d
rather go about it some other way, but with this locked
door we haven’t any choice.”
“Why, I think it a cracking good scheme,”
“Listen!” exclaimed Tom.
“Doesn’t it strike you that there’s
talking going on outside now?”
agreed the other, almost immediately. “I
do believe those Hun officers are making a move at
last. Now there’s going to be some fun
let loose when they find that both cars are shy on
“That may be,” muttered
Tom. “But I wish they’d chosen to
hang on for just another half hour. I’d
ask nothing better. Helene, how are you getting
“I am almost ready, m’sieu,”
came back in a childish voice that quite thrilled
Jack’s heart. “I have only to slip
my shoes on now and then I shall be ready.”
Jack followed his chum over to the
window, for by this time the entire rope had been
secured from the cot. Tom tested its strength
as well as he was able, and found reason to believe
it was stanch enough to bear a double burden if necessary.
Loud talking now came from in front
of the chateau. Evidently the general had gone
out to see his guests off. The chauffeurs could
be heard cranking their cars desperately, sounds which
gave Jack considerable delight. Apparently their
ill success had already begun to arouse suspicions
in the minds of the two drivers that something was
amiss, for the cranking suddenly ceased, and the watchers
from the upper window of the chateau could see feeble
lights moving about.
These they knew were matches held
by the soldiers while they looked over the motors
of their cars. After darkness had come again loud
cries arose to tell that the alarming discovery had
been made that tanks which the chauffeurs swore had
contained a fair amount of petrol at the time they
drew up before the chateau, were now most mysteriously
The officers chimed in with expletives
that came splutteringly from their lips, so that altogether
it was a scene of confusion and excitement which was
taking place in front of the old building. One
particularly rasping voice Jack fancied must belong
to the general himself. He pitied those two wretched
chauffeurs, who would be apt to feel the displeasure
of their superiors in some way altogether unpleasant.
What the outcome of the affair might
be Jack had no idea, nor did he care a particle.
All he asked was to be given a chance to make off with
Helene while the row was in progress. Once they
reached the waiting plane, he felt they could snap
their fingers at not only General von Berthold but
the entire Hun army as well.
Jack wondered whether this sudden
outbreak, and the change in conditions in front of
the chateau, would make any difference with Tom.
Fortunately that tree afforded partial shelter, and
besides, those on the road had but meagre means for
striking a light, so it seemed reasonably safe for
them to proceed.
“Be brave, Helene,” Jack
said in her ear, as Tom passed the rope out of the
window, having meanwhile fastened one end to an anchorage
inside the room. “It is for Jeanne’s
sake, remember. Do not be afraid that I will
let you fall. And above all things keep from crying
out, or he will hear you and hold you with him always.
Will you let me take you in my arms, Helene?”
“Oh, yes, yes! I am not
afraid. See, m’sieu, I can put my arms about
your neck this way, and clasp you tight. For Jeanne
I would do anything! You will not hear me say
one word, no matter what happens, m’sieu!”