Meantime, what of Jack.
After bowling Muller over and fleeing from the sentries drawn by the latter’s shout, Jack ran through the great arched doorway into the left wing of the palace. Ahead lay a dark corridor, upon which opened the doors of the ground floor rooms. He was in a round entranceway from which ascended a flight of winding stone steps to the balconied upper floor and the turret rooms above. Up there, somewhere, was his father. Jack paused only a moment, then sprang up the steps.
As he reached the upper landing, he heard the sound of footsteps descending from the tower. He listened a moment. They were not the familiar footsteps of his father.
He must act quickly, if he were to stand any chance of escape. Springing forward, revolver in hand, he seized the knob of the nearest door on the balcony, found the door give and leaped in, pushing it to behind him and setting his back against it.
The room was brightly lighted, evidently a young lady’s boudoir. This much his first glance showed Jack. It showed him also two women—one young and very beautiful, the other wizened and monkey-like, both terrified and speechless. They were Don Fernandez’ daughter, Rafaela, and her duenna or chaperone, Donna Ana.
“Quiet,” hissed Jack in Spanish, waving his weapon threateningly.
He listened with strained attention to sounds from outside. The menacing footsteps reached the landing, and then continued to descend. Jack turned the key in the lock. He was none too soon. A moment later the padding of the bare feet of the sentries sounded muffled outside, then grew fainter as the men separated, one ascending the stairway of the tower, the other running along the balcony.
Jack was puzzled as to what next to do. From Roy Stone’s brief description of the Don’s family, he guessed at the identities of the two women. While he stood irresolute, the girl recovered from her fright. Her dark eyes flashed, and she commanded him in an imperious tone to lower his weapon.
“Not till you promise me not to shout, Miss,” Jack said.
“Very well,” said the girl. “But who are you? You cannot escape. My father will capture you.”
“Not if I can help it, Miss,” said Jack grimly.
In the rapid march of events, the handkerchief with which he had bound up his jaw had become loosened. Now it fell, revealing Jack’s handsome features and his close-clinging mop of dark curls.
“Why, you are just a boy,” declared Rafaela, and her eyes lost some of their hostility while at the same time, unconsciously, her voice became less harsh.
“Surely,” she said, turning to Donna Ana, “this lad can have done nothing so terrible.”
The prim, black-robed duenna had gained courage from her mistress’s temerity. She had ceased trembling. Yet she was exercised about something. Jack could not understand why. Surely, she was no longer fearful of him. She leaned closer to her young mistress, seated at a low writing table, and whispered in her ear. Rafaela threw back her head and laughed—a low, musical laugh that sounded fascinatingly pleasant in Jack’s ears, worried though he was.