The Great Escape

It had

always been an accepted strategy among the orphans that a train to London would be the best way to escape. Once in the city, they could blend in, have some fun and maybe even find a family to live with. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it offered far more than they had. If they remained nearby, they would be found by the Grievouses or the local police, who took great pleasure in rounding up orphans. But up until now, no one really knew the details of what was beyond that twelve-foot wall.

It’s not

uncommon for castles to have caverns under their foundations. If one of these dwellings were ever conquered in a battle, the occupants could escape through an underground tunnel. In other circumstances, some residents practiced religious beliefs that opposed the government’s laws. These groups would gather together to hold secret meetings. If discovered by the local authorities, the people could flee through a passageway, avoiding capture and persecution.

          Tom continued surveying the diagram, then turned to Patrick. “You’ve had this map for a couple of months?”

          “Yeah, but I haven’t been able to check it out. I’m not even sure if it’s accurate.”

          Tom looked at him decisively. “It’s a chance we’ll have to take.”

          The rest of the boys gathered around, knowing that their role in this heroic endeavor was to cause a loud diversion, if needed. They would quietly remain in their rooms, but if signaled by Richie, they would run throughout the castle and make as much noise as possible — chaos and total confusion were their goals. Bertie would remain at the window, ready to alert the boys and girls in their separate bedrooms.

* * * *

          As Speckle rounded the corner, he spotted Tom and Sarah standing in the distance. He was stunned. In a fit of rage, he pulled out a whistle attached to his neck and blew. Its deafening shrill pierced the night and woke every living soul. Hearing the ear-splitting whistle, Crowley hurried to the electrical panel and flipped a switch; searchlights flooded the estate.

* * * *

     Carefully studying the map,

           Tom flashed his light around the damp, musky cellar. Cluttered with centuries of worthless junk, it was an enormous space running the length and breadth of Weatherly.

          Tom and Trevor rushed over and examined a section of wood paneling. As Sarah tapped it, the wall echoed.

          “See,” she said, encouraged. “It’s hollow on the other side.”

          “Find a heavy object to smash it with!” Tom urged, knowing their time was running out.

          Grabbing the first thing she found, Sarah handed him a lead pipe. “Will this work?”

          “Most definitely.” He held it firmly. “Stand back! Both of you!”

          Without a moment to spare, he hammered the wall, shattering the dry brittle planks into pieces. A cloud of dust engulfed them.

          “It’s working!” exclaimed Sarah, jumping in and pulling away the debris.

          Little by little the wall disappeared, exposing a small opening.

          “We found it!” said Trevor triumphantly.

          Tom flashed the light inside, revealing a long tunnel that led into a dark abyss.

          While Tom stared down the mysterious passageway, Sarah noticed his anxiety.

          “What’s wrong?” she asked tensely.

          His voiced trembled. “I — don’t — like — small — places.”

          “You’re telling me this now,” she said bluntly, a slight frown on her forehead. “It’s our only way out!”

          “I know . . . just give me a second,” he grumbled irritably. Splashing along the water-soaked floor, Sarah and Tom hurried through the subterranean tunnel.

          Splashing along the water-soaked floor, Sarah and Tom hurried through the subterranean tunnel. Strategically dodging puddles, Sarah accidently slipped and tumbled face-first into the mud.

          The passageway twisted and turned until the light finally hit an oncoming barrier.

          “I think we’re here,” announced Sarah. Frantically searching for an exit, she spotted an old wooden ladder shooting up about twenty feet. “Look! This must lead out!”

          Hearing the oncoming footsteps, Tom quickly helped her up then followed close behind.

          Sarah scrambled to the top only to find it covered by a heavy object. She pressed on it, but it wouldn’t budge.

          Tom climbed next to her, and they both pushed. The object moved, scraping along the overhead floor and showering them with dirt.

* * * *

Nicknamed Wind

because no one ever saw him coming, this huge, unsightly dog terrorized everyone. If it weren’t for the twenty-foot chain that kept him anchored to a metal post, there wouldn’t be any children left. Sometimes the Grievouses just let him wander the grounds, barking at anything and chasing everything — those were the best times to stay inside or run for shelter.

          Regaining their senses, Tom and Sarah examined the room: it was the water shed with a rusty pump sitting in the middle. Tom walked to the door and cracked it open. He saw the stone wall about thirty feet away and a small area where the rocks had fallen out.

          Tom grabbed Sarah’s hand, and they bolted from the shed. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion: their feet gliding across the grass, their hearts pounding with anticipation.

          Standing fifty feet away, Mrs. Grievous watched the two figures run by. She bent down and unhooked Wind’s leash.

          “Go get’em, boy!” she cried. With the speed of a leopard, the dog shot across the lawn.

          Tom and Sarah were about ten feet from the wall when they heard a familiar bark.

          Sarah’s heart sank as she glanced back. “Tom!” she shrieked, crestfallen.

          “I see him!” he exclaimed, his adrenalin pumping and legs cramping. “Just keep running.”

          Sarah reached the opening and climbed up about four feet, using the dislodged stones as steps. She wedged through the gapand fell out onto the other side.

          With Wind right behind, Tom leaped for the opening. He slipped on the rocks but managed to wedge himself through and tumbled next to Sarah.

          Wind popped his head in the hole, snapping his fangs. His claws scraped the stones but failed to get enough footing to continue. Collapsing on the frosty ground, they both stared at the dog, its mouth foaming and eyes glaring.

          Tom hastily grabbed Sarah and hurried across a dirt road, jumping into a ditch covered by wild overgrowth.

          “You all right?” he asked, his head still spinning.

          “Yeah, I . . . I think so,” she wheezed, shuddering with exhaustion.

          Tom looked up. Wind had vanished.

* * * *

          The plan had worked, and the orphans knew it. Although they had risked everything, each child realized that a rebellion of this magnitude wouldn’t necessarily result in dire punishment. What were the Grievouses going to do, lock everyone in solitude or the dungeon? Make them all stand outside for days? How would any work get done, baskets woven, or chairs built? The Grievouses’ valuable little profit center would come to a halt, and they all understood that production for this place was crucial. No, there was power in numbers. Whatever penalty befell them, in one way or another, the orphans had succeeded. For Tom and Sarah, it was only the beginning of their journey, but so far, it had been the longest night of their lives.

* * * *

     As Tom and Sarah

          walked through the desolate landscape, clouds rolled in, threatening rain. The temperature continued to drop.

          “We can stay on this trail until we get to Leyburn, hop a train to Harrogate, then to Leeds, and finally to London.”

          “What about the police?”

          “They’ll be on the main roads,” he answered unsurely, his voice dropping. “Or at least I hope so.”

          “And if they’re not? What if they search the whole countryside?”

          “Then we run — we hide — we do whatever we have to. But we don’t get caught!”

          Sarah nodded in agreement, encouraged by Tom’s enthusiasm and her own nervous excitement. They took a deep breath and bravely embarked on their three-mile hike.

Available In All Formats

Britfield & The Lost Crown is available in
Softcover, Hardcover, Audiobook and Ebook.

Get A Copy  >>

Read The First Two Chapters