THE EXPLOIT OF LORRY AND ANGUISH
During the half hour spent in the grassy ditch or gutter, they spoke not
more than half a dozen times and in the faintest of whispers. They could
hear the guard pacing the driveway inside the ponderous gate, but aside
from his footsteps no sound was distinguishable. A sense of oppression
came over the two watchers as the minutes grew longer and more deathlike
in their stillness. Each found himself wondering why the leaves did not
stir in the trees, why there were no nightbirds, no crickets, no croaking
frogs, no sign of life save that steady, clocklike tread inside the wall.
So dark was it that the wall itself was but a deeper shadow against the
almost opaque blackness beyond. No night, it seemed to them, had ever been
so dark, so still. After the oppression came the strange feeling of dread,
the result of an enforced contemplation of the affair in which they were
to take a hand, ignorant of everything except the general plan.
They knew nothing of the surroundings. If they failed, there was the
danger of being shot by the guards before an explanation could be made. If
they succeeded, it must be through sheer good fortune and not through
prowess of mind or muscle. Once inside the castle, how could they hope to
follow the abductors at a safe distance and still avoid the danger of
being lost or of running into trusty guards? The longer they lay there the
more hazardous became the part they had so recklessly ventured to play. In
the heart of each there surged a growing desire to abandon the plan, yet
neither could bring himself to the point of proposing the retreat from the
inspired undertaking. Both knew the sensible, judicious act would be to
alarm the guards and thus avoid all possible chance of a fiasco. With
misgivings and doubts in their hearts the two self-appointed guardians of
the Princess lay there upon the grass, afraid to give up the project, yet
fearing the outcome.
“The dickens will be to pay, Lorry, if they dispose of this guard on the
inside and lock the gate. Then how are we to follow?” whispered Anguish.
Lorry was thoughtful for a while. He felt the chill of discouragement in
“In that case we must lie outside and wait till they come out with the
Princess. Then make a sudden assault and rescue her. In the darkness we
can make them think there are a dozen rescuers,” he whispered at length.
After a while Anguish asked another appalling question, the outgrowth of
“Suppose these fellows, who will be in guards' uniform, should turn about
and capture us. What then? We are strangers, and our story would not be
believed. They could slip away in the excitement and leave us in a very
“Harry, if we are going to hatch up all sorts of possibilities, let's give
up the thing right now. I have thought of a thousand contingencies, and I
realize how desperate the job is to be. We must either cast discretion to
the winds or we must retreat. Which shall we do?”
“Cast aside discretion and hang our fears,” said the other, once more
inspired. “We'll take chances and hope for the best. If we see we are
going to fail we can then call for the guards. The grounds are doubtless
full of soldiers. The only part I'm worried about is the groping through
that strange, dark castle.”
“We must do some calculating and we must stick close together. By watching
where they station the two Viennese we can figure about what direction we
must take to get to the Princess's room. Sh! Isn't that some one
They strained their ears for a moment and then involuntarily,
spasmodically shook hands, each heaving the deep breath of excitement. The
stealthy rustle of moving bodies was heard, faint, but positive. It was a
moment of suspense that would have strained the nerve of a stone image.
Where were the abductors? On which side of the road and from what
direction did they come? Oh, for the eyes of a cat!
There was a slight shuffling of feet near the gate, a suppressed “Sh?” and
then deathly silence. The gate opened, a faint creaking attesting the
fact, followed by the heavy breathing of men, the noise of subdued
activity, the scent of chloroform. Some whispering, and then the creaking
of the gate.
“They've gone,” whispered Anguish. Lorry's form arose to a crouching
posture and a moment later he was crossing the road with the tread of a
cat, his cane gripped firmly in his hard. Anguish followed with drawn
revolver. So still was their approach that they were upon the figure of a
man before they were aware of the fact. In the darkness the foremost
American saw the outline of a human figure bending over a long object on
the ground. He could smell chloroform strongly, and grasped the situation.
The Viennese was administering the drug, his companions having left that
duty for him to perform. No doubt the treacherous guardsman was lying
calmly on his back, bound and gagged, welcoming unconsciousness with a
smile of security.
As soon as Lorry gained his bearings fully he prepared to fell the wretch
who was to stand watch. Anguish heard his friend's figure suddenly shoot
to an erect position. A whirring sound as of disturbed air and then a dull
thud. Something rolled over on the ground, and all was still. He was at
Lorry's side in an instant.
“I hope I haven't killed him,” whispered, Lorry. “Quick! Here is his
bottle of ether. Hold it beneath his nose. I am going to pile the body of
this guard crosswise on top of him. He will not be able to arise if he
should recover consciousness.”
All this was done in a moment's time, and the two trackers were headed for
The gate was ajar two or three feet. With turbulent hearts, they stole
“Keep along the wall,” whispered Lorry, “and trust to luck. The castle is
to the left.”
Without hesitation they crept over the noiseless grass, close beside the
wall. Directly they heard sounds near at hand. The abductors were binding
and chloroforming the guard at the arbor. After waiting for some moments
they heard the party glide away in the darkness, and followed. The body of
the guard was lying just outside the mouth of the arbor, and the odor of
chloroform was almost overpowering. Once inside the long arbor, the
Americans moved slowly and with greater caution. There was a dim light in
a basement window ahead. Toward the front of the castle and in the second
story a faint glow came from another window. They guessed it to be from
the Princess' room or from that of the countess.
At last they saw four figures steal past the dim basement light. One of
them halted near the window, and three crept away in the darkness.
Presently one of them returned, and all activity was at an end for the
time being. How near it was to two o'clock the watchers could not tell.
They only knew that they were within twenty-five feet of Geddos and
Ostrom, and that they would not have long to wait.
Soon a bright little blaze of light crossed the basement opening. Then it
returned, crossing a second time, and a third. All was still again. The
soft shuffle of a foot, the rustle of arbor vines, and the form of a man
crawled up to the window. With inconceivable stealth and carefulness it
glided through the aperture, followed by a companion.
Lorry and Anguish were at the opening a second or two later, lying flat on
their stomachs and listening for sounds from within. The dim light was
still there, the window was open, and there was a sound of whispering.
Lorry raised his head and peered through, taking calculations while the
light made it possible. He saw an open door on the opposite side of the
low room, with steps beyond, leading upward. Between the window and the
door there were no obstacles. Up those steps he saw three men creep, the
leader carrying the dim light. The door was left open, doubtless to afford
unimpeded exit from the building in case of emergency. Harry Anguish
touched Lorry's arm.
“I took the two pistols from that Vienna man out there. We may need them.
Here is one for yourself. Go first, Lorry,” he whispered.
Lorry stuck the revolver in his coat pocket and gently slid through the
window to the floor below. His friend followed, and they paused to listen.
Taking Anguish by the hand the other led the way straight to the spot
where he remembered seeing the door.
Boldly the two men began the breathless ascent of the stone steps. The top
was reached, and far ahead, down a narrow hall, they saw the three men and
the dim light moving. Two of them wore uniforms of guards. Keeping close
to the wall their followers crept after them. Up another flight of steps
they went, and then through a spacious hall. The Americans had no time and
no desire to inspect their surroundings. The wide doors at the far side of
the room opened softly, and here the trio paused. Down a great marble
hallway a dim red light shed its soft glow. It came from the lamp at the
foot of the broad staircase.
The cook pointed to the steps, and then gave his thumb a jerk toward the
left. Without the least sign of fear Geddos and Ostrom glided into the
hall and made for the staircase. The watchers could not but feel a thrill
of admiration for these daring wretches. But now a new danger confronted
them. The cook remained standing in the doorway, watching his fellows in
crime! How were they to pass him?
There was no time to be lost. The abductors were creeping up the steps
already, and the cook must be disposed of. He had blown out the light
which he carried, and was now a very dim shadow. Lorry glided forward and
in an instant stood before the amazed fellow, jamming a pistol into his
“A sound and you die!” he hissed.
“Don't move!” came another whisper, and a second revolver touched his ear.
The cook, perhaps, did not know their language, but he certainly
understood its meaning. He trembled, and would have fallen to the floor
had not the strong hand of Lorry pinned him to the wall. The hand was on
his throat, too.
“Chloroform him, Harry, and don't let him make a sound!” whispered the
owner of the hand. Anguish's twitching fingers succeeded those of his
friend on the cook's throat, his pistol was returned to his pocket, and
the little bottle came again into use.
“I'll go ahead. Follow me as soon as you have finished this fellow. Be
careful, and turn to the left when you come to the top.”
Lorry was off across the marble floor, headed for the stairway, and
Anguish was left in charge of the cook, of whom he was to make short work.
Now came the desperate, uncertain part of the transaction. Suppose he were
to meet the two conspirators at the head of the stairs, or in the hall, or
that the other traitor, Dannox, should appear to frustrate all. It was the
most trying moment in the whole life of the reckless Lorry.
When near the top of the steps he hugged the high balustrade and
cautiously peered ahead. He found himself looking down a long hall, at the
far end of which, to his right, a dim light was burning. There was no
sound and there was no sign of the two men, either to the right or to the
left. His heart felt like lead! They evidently had entered the Princess's
room! How was he to find that room? Slowly he wriggled across the broad,
dark hall, straightening up in the shadow of a great post. From this point
he edged along the wall for a distance of ten or twelve feet to the left.
A sound came from farther down the hall, and he imagined he heard some one
His hand came in contact with a heavy hanging or tapestry, and he quickly
squirmed behind its folds, finding himself against a door which moved as
his body touched it. He felt it swing open slightly and drew back,
intending to return to the hall, uncertain and very much undecided as to
the course to pursue. His revolver was in his hand. Just as he was about
to pull aside the curtain a man glided past, quickly followed by another.
Providence had kept him from running squarely into them. They were going
toward the left, and he realized that they were now approaching the
Princess's room. How he came to be ahead of them he could not imagine.
Strange trembling seized his legs, so great was the relief after the
narrow escape. Again he felt the door move slightly as he pressed against
it. The necessity for a partial recovery of his composure before the next
and most important step, impelled him softly to enter the room for an
Holding to the door he stood inside and drew himself to his full height,
taking a long and tremulous breath. There was no light in the room, but
through the door crack to his left came a dim, broad streak. He now knew
where he was. This room was next to that in which the Princess slept, for
had he not seen the light from her window? Perhaps he was now in the room
of the Countess Dagniar. Next door! Next door! Even now the daring Geddos
and Ostrom were crawling towards the bed of the ruler of Graustark, not
twenty feet away. His first impulse was to cross and open the door leading
to the next room, surmising that it would be unlocked, but he remembered
Anguish, who was doubtless, by this time, stealing up the stairs. They
must not be separated, for it would require two steady, cool heads to deal
with the villains. It was not one man's work. As he turned to leave the
room he thought how wonderfully well they had succeeded in the delicate
enterprise so far.
His knees struck the door, and there was a dull thump, not loud in
reality, but like the report of a gun to him. A sudden rustle in the
darkness of the room and then a sleepy voice, soft and quick, as of a
woman awakening with a start.
“Who is it?”
His heart ceased beating, his body grew stiff and immovable. Again the
voice, a touch of alarm in it now:
“Is that you, Donnox?”
She spoke in German, and the voice came from somewhere in front and to his
right. He could not answer, could not move. The paralysis of indecision
was upon him.
“How is it that the outer door is open?”
This time there was something like a reprimand in the tones, still low. He
almost could see the wide-open, searching eyes.