But would he get through in time? He set to work again feverishly until suddenly a familiar sound reached his ear from outside; the sound of a cat purring!
Could it be Down? She had not found them out in their new prison, but if she had happened to be on the roof when he looked out of the window she might have seen him or smelled him—yes! There was a white cat on the cornice, and the next moment Down was on the sill, arching her back and purring away contentedly.
So she had found them at last—no! not them, for the Heir-to-Empire was not there—he had been stolen away! Roy could have leaned his head on Down’s soft fur and cried his heart out in despair at his own helplessness, but he set his teeth instead and dug harder with the sword point.
Would the bar never loosen? So the minutes passed without a sound save the grating of the eager sword and the soft, soothing purr of the cat as she sat beside him watching him indifferently. Then suddenly the latter ceased and Down leaped swiftly to the floor of the cell. Doubtless she heard something. Cats hear so many things humans do not hear, and they seem to know so many things humans do not know, so perhaps she heard a mouse far down the arched passage, or even in the next cell. Anyhow she marched straight to the door and stood by it, miaowing to be let out. Ah! if he only could let her out! If the door were only open, thought poor Roy, as he worked away at the still immovable bar.
“No! Down, no! I can’t,” he murmured bitterly as the cat miaowed more and more insistently.
But still the miaowing went on. Down became quite plaintive, then ill-used; finally she leaped onto Roy’s shoulder, licked his ear with her rough red tongue as if to coax him, and was back again at the door asking to be let out.
Why was she so set on it? Roy turned to look at her half stupidly and for a moment forgot his task; forgot how rapidly time was passing; forgot everything save that Down was asking to be let out. So wearily he passed to the door, and scarcely conscious of what he was doing, laid his hand on the latch.
“I can’t, Down,” he said; “I can’t open—” He broke off hurriedly.
For the latch yielded, the door opened!!
It could never have been locked!!
Had they forgotten, or, having secured the Heir-to-Empire, had they not cared what became of the henchman? The latter, most likely, for there was no sentry in the arched passage along which Down had already disappeared.