Later the chums disrobed and turned in. There was abundance of covering to the bed.
“Now,” proposed Tom Reade, talking in whispers, “for my plan of escape. It’s dangerous, and it sounds impossible, fantastic. But now that you’re here, Dick Prescott, I feel equal to putting anything through! So here’s for the plan!”
It was dangerous enough, certainly, as Tom Reade outlined it. It didn’t even strike Captain Prescott as being possible of performance, but he didn’t say so. It was the only plan of escape that presented itself, and Tom had evidently put in all his hopes on that idea.
From the plan the chums fell to talking of other days. In the end, however, their whispers became more indistinct, then died out. Both were asleep.
Dick, as he slumbered and tossed, still felt the motion of that hideous prison train, but at last fell into deep slumber.
When he finally awoke he beheld Tom Reade, fully dressed in his uniform, seated at some distance under a little opening in the roof, reading a book.
“Awake, eh?” asked Tom, when he heard his chum stir. After glancing at his wrist watch, he added:
“You’ve slept nine hours and a half, and I guess you needed it. There is water for washing, and I’ll consult our host about breakfast. What do you think of this way of letting in daylight? Toward night I shove this black cover over the hole in the roof, so that candle light may not show through the roof and give us away to the Germans.”
Stepping to the chimney, from which the “ventilator” brick was still absent, Reade put his hand inside, finding a cord and giving it a gentle tug.
By the time that Prescott was partly dressed the door opened and the old peasant looked in.
“We are wondering what you can give us for breakfast?” Tom said in French. “Are eggs to be had to-day? Omelettes?”
“Yes, I can get eggs,” nodded the old man.
“As you’ve not seen the color of my money yet,” Tom continued, “please take this on account.”
At first the old peasant hung back from accepting the proffered gold coin, though at last he took it, remarking:
“I will admit that I am poor, and yet it seems a crime to accept money from an American.”
Half an hour later their host returned, bringing two hot omelettes, dark bread, potatoes and the inevitable pot of coffee.
“It is with difficulty that we keep food hidden,” he murmured, in a low voice. “A dozen times the Huns have appeared and have taken from us all the food they could find. But we still have flour, potatoes and coffee hidden where they cannot find them. We shall hope to continue to exist until you Americans have helped drive the Hun from our land.”
From the nearby road came the sound of moving trucks. The old man paused and shook his fist in the direction of the sound. After he had served the breakfast he climbed upon a stool, putting his eyes to the hole in the sloping roof and peering toward the road.