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.'`Coming from you, von Stalhein, I appreciate the compliment.'Von Stalhein nodded slowly, almost sadly.'I even find myself regretting that you came to Lucrania.'`Come, come,' protested Biggles.'Surely it is a little early to talk of regrets?'`You have a saying, "The pitcher that goes most often to the water in the end gets broken."'Biggles smiled.'We have another which says, "Don't count your chickens before they are hatched."'Von Stalhein smiled, but there was no humour in his eyes.He bowed again His heels clicked together.'Good-bye — for the time being,' he said, and turned towards the door.Reaching it, he turned again.'You won't forget that I am looking forward to seeing you again?' he called.`Whatever else I may forget you may be sure that it won't be that,' answered Biggles.The German went out, and an instant later his car could be heard speeding up the road.Biggles moved swiftly.'We've got about five minutes to get clear,' he said crisply.`Why didn't he arrest us then?' asked Ginger, who had not for an instant been deceived by the casual cross-talk.`He daren't risk it single-handed.He knew that we'd be armed.He's gone off to get his gang of greyshirts.We've got to move quickly.'Ìt means bolting for it?'`Yes – but not into the country.Von Stalhein could call up a regiment if he wanted to –or a whole blessed army corps if it became necessary.He's not going to let us get out of the country if human power can stop us.We've only one chance now that I can see.'`What is it?'The castle.'`The castle?'`That's it.Von Stalhein lacks one quality and that's imagination.Though he searches the whole country – and he will – there is one place in which he will not expect to find us, and that is in the castle.'`But how—?'`We've no time to stand talking,' snapped Biggles.'I'll show you.Come on.'Four swift paces took him to the key rack.He unhooked the key of number seventeen and sped up the stairs; but he did not immediately use the key that he held in his hand.Instead, he went into their own room and filled his pockets with the most vital articles of their equipment, including the rope which hetook from under the bed.Then he opened the window wide.This done, he went back into the corridor and locked the door of the room on the outside, after which he unlocked the door of number seventeen.He turned to Ginger.'Listen carefully,' he said.'This is what you've got to do.Lock me in here.Go down and hang the key in its proper place.Then go out of the front door and come round into the courtyard.I shall be waiting at the window with the rope to pull you up into number seventeen.Hurry! Every second counts.'Ginger did not question the orders.Biggles had already gone into the forbidden room.Ginger locked the door and hurried downstairs.The proprietor had not returned.It was the work of a moment to replace the key on its hook, after which he went quietly out of the front door and walked swiftly round into the courtyard.Biggles was already waiting for him at the open window of number seventeen.'Lay hold,' he said, dropping an end of the rope.Ginger seized the rope and was hauled up into the room.`Good!' muttered Biggles, closing the window.'I think that gives us a good start.If my calculations are right this will be the last room they will search.Hark! Here they come.'From the road leading to the castle came the sound of a motorcar being driven at high speed.Biggles took his screwdriver from his pocket and prised up the trap-door.'This is the way we go,' he said cheerfully.CHAPTER IXA Grim DiscoveryGinger stared at the inviting hole, while Biggles, dropping on his hands and knees, turned the beam of the torch intoit.The light revealed a flight of stone steps leading downwards.Ginger almost fell into the hole as there came a rush of heavy footsteps along the corridor.Ìt's all right.We've plenty of time now,' said Biggles calmly.`They'll make for our own room first, and the door being locked will probably hold them up for a minute or two.Then, when they find the window open, they'll think we've bolted into the country.Even if they ransack the hotel for us this is the last room they will search.'As he finished speaking there was a splintering crash which seemed so close that for a dreadful moment Ginger thought that it was the door of the room they were in that was being forced.`There goes the door,' remarked Biggles.'We had better get along.You go first — I'll close the trap after us.If my guess is right, the last thing that von Stalhein would imagine is that we know about this bolt-hole,' he added reassuringly.Taking the torch Ginger went slowly down the steps, peering fearfully in front of him in case there was a sudden drop.He waited until Biggles had closed the trap door, and then handed the torch back to him.Biggles took the lead and went on down.It was not very far.About twenty steps and the descent came to an end, finishing in a gloomy cave, which, from its bricked arches, was obviously artificial.It was damp; in places it was wet, for the moisture had seeped through the roof to fall on a slimy green floor, or into patches of grotesque fungus that clung to the walls.Biggles examined the floor closely.Hm, as I thought,' he said.`This tunnel has been used recently.'`You're pretty sure that it goes to the castle?' asked Ginger.Ì can't imagine anywhere else that it would be likely to end.'`There was mention of a monastery in the book, don't forget.'Ì haven't forgotten that, but if this tunnel goes to the monastery then it is unlikely that the site of the monastery would have been lost.Apparently nobody knows now where the monastery stood.However, we shall soon know where the tunnel ends.Let's go on.Keep close to me and be careful you don't slip on this stuff on the floor.It's like grease.And don't touch the walls; they look pretty rotten to me; we don't want to bring the roof down on us.' Picking his way carefully, Biggles began to walk along the tunnel.`That was a bit of bad luck, von Stalhein barging in when he did,' observed Ginger, as they proceeded on their way, for the recent events were still running through his mind.Ì don't think it made much difference,' answered Biggles.'I was an optimist to suppose that we should get a clear week to work in.I should have known von Stalhein better than that.You heard what he said — he has a list of visitors sent up to him every night.He would have known about us before but for the fact that he had to go to Prenzel— at least, so he said, and I fancy he was telling the truth.No doubt our names were sent up, but as von Stalhein was away the names did not convey anything particular to whoever received them.By jove! Did you see him start when the hotel proprietor told him who was staying in the hotel? That gave him a shock.He was certainly speaking the truth when he said he had no idea that we were here.Maybe it's as well things happened as they did; at least it gave us a chance to get away.Had he gone to his office and found our names on his desk we shouldn't have got such a chance, you may be sure.'Ì suppose Algy will be on his way by now?' was Ginger's next remark.'After what has happened it seems a pity that we can't get in touch with him.'`There's a chance that we may.We'll see how things go, although I imagine that von Stalhein's telephone is buzzing by now.'`What are the chances of the Professor being at the castle, do you think?'`Very good.I can't think of any other reason for von Stalhein and his gang being here [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]