Upon one side of the lane which the fugitives had entered ran a high wall. Upon the other was a very large mansion. Its lower windows were five feet from the ground. As the lads ran they saw an open window. Without a moment’s hesitation they placed their hands on the sill, threw themselves into it, and flung down the window. There was a scream as they entered, followed by an exclamation in English. The boys looked round, and saw a young lady who had started back in terror to a corner of the room.
“Are you English?” Jack exclaimed in astonishment. “We are English officers escaping from a Russian prison. In heaven’s name do not betray us!”
As he spoke the Russian cavalry came along the lane at full gallop.
“I am English,” the young lady said, as she recovered from her astonishment, “I am governess to the younger daughters of the governor. You are now in his palace. But what has taken place? I heard the firing and went to the window to listen.”
“We have been aiding in the rescue of a Polish leader who was to have been executed this morning,” Dick said. “We succeeded in that, but were attacked and cut up afterwards, and had to scatter. I fear that they will suspect we must have entered this place, for they were close behind us, and there was no other escape possible. Can you conceal us? It seems almost like a miracle finding an English lady here.”
“A great many of the Russian nobility have English tutors or governesses, and although some went back to England at the beginning of the war, the greater number have remained quietly at their work. I fear that the whole palace will be searched if it is suspected that you have taken refuge here. How imprudent of you to have mixed yourselves up in this rebellion!”
“We could hardly help ourselves,” Jack said, “but it is too late to discuss that now. Will you look out of the window and see if the lane is empty? If so, we had best make off without delay.”
The young lady went to the window.
“No,” she replied at once, “there is a soldier on horseback a few yards to the right.”
“Don’t open the window, then,” Jack said. “They have evidently put a line of patrols along the lane. We must not get you into trouble,” he continued, turning towards her. “If you will show us the way, we will go at once and give ourselves up.”
“Oh, no,” the lady exclaimed. “That must not be. But where can I hide you?” and she stood for a minute or two thinking. “I think the safest place of all,” she said at last, “the only place where you would have a chance of escaping, if a search is made, is in the general’s own writing-room. It is very bare of furniture, but there are heavy curtains to the windows. No one would think of searching that room, and the chances are that no one will go near the windows.”